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  Wednesday, May 7, 2003

 Local News

FirstEnergy may want to change coolant safety pumps at D-B plant
Nuclear power industry

Staff writer

CAMP PERRY -- The future of coolant safety pumps at Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station dominated much of the talk at a Tuesday monthly meeting between utility officials and federal regulators.

The equipment, called high-pressure injection pumps, has nothing wrong with it per se, but plant officials want to modify or replace the pumps because of the remote chance they would get clogged during an accident.

"We feel it will gain us reliable margin, and it's the right thing to do," said FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co. Chief Operating Officer Lew Myers, who added the decision is weeks off and will be based on simulations on a mock-up of the pumps.

The plant has been off-line since last February when during a routine refueling outage employees stumbled upon massive corrosion on the reactor head that has dwarfed anything seen before it.

Since then, workers have been working for more than a year, fixing physical problems with the plant, as well as management and safety oriented issues in hopes of restarting sometime during the summer.

The HPI pumps are a major hurdle, though. In the event of an accident gushing coolant would chunk debris off of equipment, peel paint off the walls and produce other types of debris that officials worry could clog the pumps and cause them to shut down.

The pumps are used to keep circulating water to cool down the extremely hot equipment in the reactor containment area.

A representative of Framatome, the supplier who secured two replacement pumps from an unfinished nuclear plant for FirstEnergy, was on hand to talk about the possibility of replacement versus modification.

"We would have to remove the existing pumps and motors, which is not an easy task by any means," George Beam told Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials.

The other option would be to modify the pumps with a screen welded inside a valve to prevent clogging.

"We've got to focus on what are the advantages and disadvantages of each approach," said Myers. "We've got to find the right technical ...approach for the plant."

Meanwhile, workers at Davis-Besse are making progress in fixing major and minor issues outside the containment building, but are still meeting some obstacles along the way.

One item program managers are still working on is the Corrective Action program, said Fred von Ahn, the new vice president of FENOC oversight.

While he said the program -- which looks at reports made by workers and identifies ways to correct problems -- is effective, it's not identifying all the issues.

That's why senior management started internal assessments, putting them into a database to look for trends in problems. They also created Condition Report analysts to look over the initial reports and identify trends.

NRC officials continue to inspect the plant, too, in various stages of completion for several different programs and have closed out two items on the Davis-Besse restart checklist -- the ultimate guide to what needs to be finished before restart.

Company officials, too, are still looking toward a test of several systems to be completed in mid-June, which would test the new reactor head as well as the bottom of the reactor for leaks.

Originally published Wednesday, May 7, 2003

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