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Tuesday, 
September 23, 2003

 



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Regional News | Article published Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Davis-Besse could restart in November

The reactor at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant could be ready for restart by early November, after the completion of a cooling system pressure test and system modifications planned to be done afterward, FirstEnergy said yesterday.

Work to be done after the pressure test includes modifying the plantís high pressure injection pumps to improve their reliability and changes to the electrical system. Once it begins, this work is expected to take four to six weeks to complete. The pressure test, which began Sunday, lasts a week and is "an important milestone in the plantís restart process," the company said in a prepared release.

Richard Wilkins, a FirstEnergy spokesman, cautioned that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has the final say as to when Davis-Besse restarts.

Besides the expected plant modifications, Mr. Wilkins said, the pressure test is likely to reveal minor work needing to be done on the cooling system, which has been idle for 19 months. The pressure test was delayed a week by problems with a stuck valve and a malfunctioning electric circuit breaker.

NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said agency officials will be reviewing the pressure-test results and discussing all other progress FirstEnergy has made toward a potential restart at a monthly NRC oversight committee meeting next month.

Mr. Burnell said that as long as FirstEnergy takes all of the steps required by the commissionís restart procedures, the utilityís schedule does not concern the NRC.

"Whatever timetable they have is the timetable we have," the spokesman said.

David Lochbaum, a nuclear safety engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said a November restart "seems achievable" based on the work FirstEnergy still has to do.

Mr. Lochbaum said his biggest remaining concern is the "safety culture" at Davis-Besse.

Investigation of severe corrosion of Davis-Besseís reactor head, discovered 18 months ago during a maintenance shutdown, revealed that signs of the reactor headís decay were either ignored or disregarded, and that employees were reluctant to voice safety concerns. The reactor head has since been replaced.

Mr. Lochbaum said heíd feel more confident if there were some sort of NRC "safety culture" criteria that had to be met. At the very least, Mr. Lochbaum said, the NRC needs to be more diligent in ensuring that FirstEnergy follows its operating regulations.

"The good news about Davis-Besse is that itís gotten some extra attention now," Mr. Lochbaum said.

The safety culture at Davis-Besse will be the subject of an Oct. 1 meeting at the NRCís regional office in Chicago. The NRCís Davis-Besse oversight committee is scheduled to meet Oct. 7 at Camp Perry, near Port Clinton.




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