HOUSTON -A leak discovered under a
reactor at a Texas nuclear plant is nothing on the scale of a
similar problem at an Ohio reactor, the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission said Monday.
``There's a huge difference in perspective here,'' said Victor
Dricks, spokesman for the commission.
The leak at the South Texas Project plant southwest of Houston
left a small amount of boric acid residue from cooling water. The
accumulation, discovered April 12, was smaller than an aspirin
Last summer, at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant east of Toledo,
Dricks said a leak involved a ``massive amount of boric acid
crystal'' that required the use of shovels and crowbars to remove
``It was that bad, and because it sat on top of the reactor
vessel it had eaten a football-sized hole in the top of the reactor
head,'' Dricks said.
The leak at the Texas plant is different because it occurred on
the outside of two instrument guide tubes where they enter the
bottom of one of two reactors.
Tests indicate the residue came from reactor coolant fluid, plant
officials said, which would be unique among the 69 U.S. nuclear
plants -- including South Texas and Davis-Besse -- that used
pressurized water reactors.
``We just haven't seen this before,'' Dricks said, adding that
stress corrosion cracking -- if that was the cause -- typically
occurs at higher temperatures.
Dricks said inspectors found the problem at South Texas while
following an inspection order related to the Davis-Besse
Plant manager Ed Halpin said the leak was not fast-growing, and
the guide tubes in question are not integral to the reactor's
The South Texas plant must confer with the NRC before beginning
any repair plan, and the plant has pledged not to restart until
everything appears fixed.
The plant's other unit continues to operate at full power. The
plant supplies power to customers from Houston to Austin and San
Antonio to Corpus Christi.
FirstEnergy, owner of Ohio's Davis-Besse plant, said it is
getting closer to restarting the plant in Oak Harbor. The plant has
been shut down since February 2002. Substantial boric acid corrosion
found in March 2002 on top of the reactor has kept the plant closed
for repairs that probably will cost FirstEnergy more than $400
Davis-Besse will do a pressure test of the reactor coolant
system, which includes the reactor, in mid- to late May. It should
be ready for restart about a month after the test is completed,
company officials said.
FirstEnergy estimates the restart will come no sooner than
mid-June. The NRC has its own inspections that can start only after
repair work is completed at the plant.