| Article published Friday, July 4, 2003|
Utility eyes September restart nod for reactor Davis-Besse
faces late August checks
By TOM HENRY
FirstEnergy Corp. now is looking at September
as the month it will try to get restart authorization for its
Davis-Besse nuclear plant.
Utility officials had been saying
for weeks that August would be the month they would seek permission
from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But in a letter to Lew
Myers, chief operating officer of the utility’s nuclear subsidiary,
an NRC official said the week of Aug. 25 has been set aside to do
more inspections that must be completed before
FirstEnergy spokesman Todd Schneider told The Blade
yesterday that the inspections probably would push restart into at
least September, although he said a late-August restart is not out
The NRC makes the final decision on when the plant
restarts, regardless of the company’s timetable.
NRC oversight panel chairman, told The Blade the inspections planned
for the week of Aug. 25 could be moved up if the company picks up
the pace of its repairs and makes such a request, possibly allowing
the restart to still occur in August. But he acknowledged the NRC’s
latest timeframe for inspections is based on how work is going at
the current pace.
The project has encountered numerous delays
throughout Davis-Besse’s 17-month outage, the result of various
equipment and management issues that have arisen since a
pineapple-sized rust cavity was discovered on top of the plant’s
reactor head on March 6, 2002.
The plant had been shut down
for refueling and maintenance three weeks earlier for what was
supposed to be a month-long outage.
The latest delay
virtually assures FirstEnergy of eating costs for Davis-Besse’s lack
of production during the final peak-usage month of 2003.
utility has said it loses $20 million to $25 million a month each
June, July, and August the plant has been idle, because it has had
to buy electricity on the open market to supply its customers. It
also loses $10 million to $15 million for each of the other nine
The total cost of the outage has not been updated for
months, but utility figures show it will end up being several
hundred million dollars between lost energy production, new
equipment, and other items.
In a related matter, the weeklong
test to see how the plant performs at normal operating pressure and
temperature has been delayed until late July. Mr. Schneider would
not provide a date. The test is one of the biggest hurdles the plant
has remaining: Among other things, it is expected to show whether
the bottom of the reactor is leaking. The plant will be kept in a
nonnuclear mode for that test.
Meanwhile, a U.S. House
subcommittee probing what went wrong at Davis-Besse appears unlikely
to have a hearing on the matter until fall, if at all. Ken Johnson,
spokesman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said a
hearing had been contemplated for this month.
members have not decided when to have such a hearing, other than to
agree that scheduling logistics likely prevent members from
convening one until the fall.
For earlier stories on
Davis-Besse, go to www.toledoblade.com/davisbesse