| Article published Wednesday, June 4, 2003|
Nuke plant plans test for start-up next
Davis-Besse hopes to operate in
By TOM HENRY
PORT CLINTON - The most crucial start-up test
in Davis-Besse’s 26-year history is now expected in mid to late
The beleaguered plant, idled the past 16 months by
equipment problems and workplace issues, will be operated at normal
pressure and 85 percent of normal temperature for a week. The test
is to designed to show the Nuclear Regulatory Commission how well
the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station can operate following its
extensive repairs, as well as whether the bottom of the nuclear
plant’s reactor is leaking.
FirstEnergy Corp. officials said
yesterday their latest best-case scenario for restarting the plant
is now early August, assuming the start-up test goes smoothly and
nothing else bars the company from receiving NRC
The plan was outlined yesterday at the NRC’s
monthly oversight meeting at Camp Perry. The NRC, which does not
comment on company timetables, would only say that it will not rush
its review process.
An August restart could salvage the final
portion of this year’s peak usage season for the utility, which has
said it loses $20 million to $25 million each month the plant sits
idle during the summer. It loses about $10 million to $15 million
during other months.
Lew Myers, chief operating officer of
FirstEnergy’s nuclear subsidiary, said an early August restart is
viable - but noted the company will have to stick to an ambitious
schedule to make it happen.
The plant has been shut down
since February, 2002, because of a leak of corrosive water that
rusted a 4-by-5-inch hole through the vessel, which holds nuclear
fuel. The revelation of the rust hole has led to a tightening of
safety procedures at nuclear plants nationwide.
Davis-Besse restarts, the next big project will be to dismantle two
high-pressure injection pumps and send them off to be redesigned.
It’ll be a modification no U.S. nuclear plant has ever tried. The
pumps weigh more than 6,000 pounds each and are built specific to
Bob Schrauder, FirstEnergy support services
director, said he hopes those pumps can be redesigned and put back
into service at Davis-Besse in one month. "We’ve never had this
done, so we really don’t know how long it will take," he
High-pressure injection pumps are among the most
important safety features of a nuclear plant: In the event of a
loss-of-coolant accident, they would be called upon to forcibly
inject coolant water over the reactor to prevent a
FirstEnergy discovered in the fall that
Davis-Besse’s pumps have a design flaw that could allow them to stop
working while in use. The theory is that debris picked off the floor
and passed along by the containment sump may clog the pump
A consulting firm, MPR Associates, has designed a
special strainer for each of those pumps to help filter out any such
debris, while also proposing that ports be relocated. The devices
are to be tested for the NRC in a lab where the modifications are
Months ago, FirstEnergy bought a pair of unused pumps
that were designed for a nuclear plant in eastern Washington. That
plant was never completed. Its pumps are now being held in reserve
as a contingency for Davis-Besse. FirstEnergy said it would rather
try modifying its pumps first, to avoid possible
Despite lingering questions, FirstEnergy
officials said they are narrowing the scope of issues moving closer
to a restart. Their hopes were buoyed by the completion of two small
demonstrations last month of Davis-Besse’s reactor coolant system,
precursors for the normal operating pressure test.
first test, completed May 6, the system was operated at 50 pounds
per square inch of pressure. In the second, completed May 25, the
pressure was increased to 250 psi. Both showed some minor valve
leakage. But NRC officials said none of it was out of the ordinary
for what could be expected at any plant undergoing such tests. The
utility said it has made repairs.
The two low-pressure tests
were both done at a fraction of Davis-Besse’s normal operating
pressure of 2,200 psi. They ranged in duration from 30 minutes to a
few hours. The upcoming test will last a week.
one of the nation’s hottest nuclear plants. It normally operates in
excess of 600 degrees. During the upcoming pressure test, it will be
operated at about 85 percent of that, or 500 to 525 degrees, NRC
officials said. Control rods remain inserted for all tests to keep
the plant in its non-nuclear mode.
|More articles on this subject »|