| Article published Wednesday, April 16, 2003|
Davis-Besse may resume operations by mid-June;
officials hope restart comes soon
BLADE STAFF WRITER
PORT CLINTON - The Davis-Besse nuclear power
plant could be ready to restart about mid-June, plant management
told federal regulators yesterday.
Officials of FirstEnergy
Nuclear Operating Co., Davis-Besse’s parent company, said they plan
to start a seven-day pressure test at the plant in mid-May, and will
be ready for startup about a month later.
But the federal
Nuclear Regulatory Commission has the final say on when the plant
operates again, and the leader of the NRC’s oversight panel would
only say Davis-Besse is making good progress.
"I’m not into
the schedule-projection business. That’s Davis-Besse’s
responsibility," Jack Grobe said. "When the panel is convinced the
plant is ready, it will make that recommendation - and not
The Oak Harbor plant shut down in February, 2002,
for refueling. A month later, workers found boric acid had eaten a
hole in the reactor vessel head, which contains the reactor
Mr. Grobe said three main areas of work at the plant
w Bulk work - taking care of the thousands of work
orders for repairs.
w Engineering issues.
w The safety
attitudes of the plant’s workers.
Many of the problems that
led to the boric acid leaks, which went on for years, eating through
the reactor head, have been traced to management problems.
Davis-Besse officials have said repeatedly the plant put production
over safety in the 1990s.
A main engineering problem has been
the high-pressure injection pumps, which are important because they
rush water to the reactor in an accident. Plant workers said in
certain accidents, the pumps might not work because they might
FirstEnergy bought two pumps from a never-completed
nuclear plant in eastern Washington but also is looking at improving
the pumps they have. The new pumps would have to be modified because
they have too much horsepower and might be too powerful for the
emergency diesel generator, another important safety
But the plant has taken care of most of the
thousands of outstanding condition reports and work orders,
completed work on the emergency sump, and reassembled the reactor
with a new head to replace the corroded one.
Another area of
concern was the attitudes of workers and managers toward safety.
Last year, management polled workers and found many thought the
company prized production over safety and did not take their
A second survey, taken this year, found
that many more employees thought the company valued safety,
communicated their goals to workers, and took concerns seriously,
according to Bill Pearce, vice president of oversight for
Nearly 60 residents and public officials
attended a meeting for the public yesterday at which nine people who
addressed NRC officials said the plant should be restarted
"It is time to restart the plant, get it back online,
and start producing energy," said Virginia Park, the Ottawa County
Recorder. "For me and people like me, this is a question of
economics. ... This is a no-brainer."
Mr. Grobe said the NRC
would not allow the plant restart unless it is deemed
Carl Koebel, an Ottawa County commissioner, said he has
seen a marked improvement in safety awareness at Davis-Besse. "We’ve
seen the development of a safety-conscious workforce that came from
the top down that allowed the bottom to speak up," he
Dave Hirt, Danbury Township trustee, also asked the NRC
officials to expedite the restart. "I applaud the progress that has
been made," Mr. Hirt said. "Please continue with the orderly
progress to the restart of Davis-Besse."
writer Ignazio Messina contributed to this
For earlier stories on the Davis-Besse
plant, go to www.toledoblade.com/davisbesse.
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