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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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