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September 18, 2003

 



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Regional News | Article published Thursday, September 18, 2003
DAVIS-BESSE
Problems lengthen plant’s road to restart

By TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER


FirstEnergy Corp.’s effort to perform the biggest test in Davis-Besse’s 26-year history has been stalled temporarily by a combination of equipment problems, faulty procedures, and human performance issues, officials said yesterday.

First, a valve in the emergency core flood tank opened unexpectedly Monday morning.

Evidence surfaced that the crew of operators handling the situation did not respond appropriately. Among other things, they had followed a procedure with an error written into it.

Then, early yesterday, a pump in the containment spray system malfunctioned, officials said.

All are related to preparations being made for a test in which Davis-Besse is to spend at least a week at near-normal operating temperature and pressure.

Called a "dress rehearsal" for restart by one FirstEnergy official, the test was to have begun Friday - but it hasn’t started yet because of obstacles the company has encountered.

After yesterday’s pump problem was diagnosed, the plant’s reactor cooling system was being maintained at a steady 385 degrees and 780 pounds per square inch of pressure. The test calls for the system to be at 532 degrees and 2,155 psi. Normal operating temperature is 605 degrees and 2,200 psi.

NRC spokesman Viktoria Mitlyng said it was not immediately clear if the problem with the emergency core flood tank’s valve strictly was a result of human error or partly mechanical. The operating crew "did not handle the situation well" and was removed from the project for remedial training that could last two weeks, she said.

"It was possible for the operators to prevent this valve from opening. There were steps they could have taken. The operators didn’t do it," she said, adding that the NRC has learned they were following an erroneous procedure.

The company believes operators may not have compensated appropriately for the gradual pressure increase. "They may not have been as cognizant of that situation as they should have been," Mr. Wilkins said.

The event had minimal safety significance because the reactor has not been started, Ms. Mitlyng said. Heat and pressure for the test are coming solely from the reactor cooling pumps, not the reactor, Jan Strasma, another NRC spokesman, said.

The test is being done, among other things, to see if the bottom of Davis-Besse’s reactor leaks and if safety systems would work if modified as proposed. Many other checks are being made as well because the plant has been idle for 19 months, officials have said.

For earlier stories on Davis-Besse, go to www.toledoblade.com/davisbesse.




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