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April 16, 2003

 



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Regional News | Article published Wednesday, April 16, 2003
Davis-Besse may resume operations by mid-June;
Local officials hope restart comes soon


By
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 before."

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 coolant.

Mr. Grobe said three main areas of work at the plant remain:

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 clog.

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 feature.

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 concerns seriously.

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 FirstEnergy.

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 soon.

"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 safe.

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 said.

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."

Blade staff writer Ignazio Messina contributed to this report.
For earlier stories on the Davis-Besse plant, go to www.toledoblade.com/davisbesse.



More articles on this subject »
FirstEnergy says shell passes test 04/10/2003
Salvaged equipment considered for Besse 04/10/2003
Regulators question nuke plant testing plan 04/05/2003
Davis-Besse will search for leakage with cameras 04/03/2003
President appoints new chief at NRC 04/02/2003

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