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Saturday, July 26, 2003

Nuclear plant shutdown cost $450M+

The Associated Press

OAK HARBOR, Ohio - The cost of keeping the troubled Davis-Besse nuclear plant shut down and fixing it over the last year and a half is at $450 million and will continue to increase, the plant's owner said.

FirstEnergy Corp. said Thursday it will spend between $40 million and $50 million to buy power from other sources in July and August when demand for power increases.

The plant along western Lake Erie has been shut down since February 2002, when it was closed for maintenance. A month later a leak was discovered that had allowed boric acid to eat nearly through the 6-inch-thick steel cap covering the plant's reactor vessel.

It was the most extensive corrosion ever at a U.S. nuclear reactor and led to a nationwide review of all 69 similar plants.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said the damage ranked at the agency's most serious level for safety problems.

When the damage was discovered, FirstEnergy expected the plant to be closed for three months. But the startup date has been continually pushed back because of prolonged repairs throughout the plant.

Most recently, the company said the restart could happen in September, but now they have changed that to the fall.

Ralph DiNicola, a FirstEnergy spokesman, said they would not be more specific. "We're not going to characterize it as whether it's early fall, middle fall or late fall. It's the fall," DiNicola said.

The company decided to be more vague about the timetable because it has changed so often since the outage began, DiNicola said.

The NRC will make the final decision on when the plant can resume operations.

The company is continuing repairs and an important week-long test is planned for late August, when it will increase pressure in the reactor coolant system to normal operating levels. Workers then will inspect the system for leaks.

FirstEnergy also said it would modify rather than replace two high-pressure injection pumps, DiNicola said. Replacing them would take months. The pumps are part of the emergency coolant system that would be needed in an accident.

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Jul. 26, 2003
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