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  Saturday, March 29, 2003

 Local News


Group criticizes D-B delay on fixing pumps


Associated Press


CARROLL TOWNSHIP -- Nuclear watchdog groups are criticizing FirstEnergy Corp.'s decision to wait on rebuilding two reactor coolant pumps that have a history of leaking at a plant.

Two of the four pumps at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant have been rebuilt, but FirstEnergy wants to refurbish the others later.

Nuclear watchdog groups said delaying a fix on the pumps is similar to what the plant did before in ignoring leaks in the reactor's lid.

The plant has been shut down since February 2002. A month later a leak was discovered that had allowed boric acid to eat nearly through the 6-inch-thick steel cap covering the plant's reactor vessel.

"The NRC needs to address the issue," said David Lochbaum, a nuclear safety engineer and industry watchdog with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is looking into the issue, said agency spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng. "The fact there is gasket leakage does not mean the pumps are not working," she said.

FirstEnergy is considering refurbishing two of the pumps during an outage that is likely to occur a year after the plant resumes operation, said Richard Wilkins, spokesman for the Akron-based company.

"We aren't reconsidering. All the consideration was done up front. The review was very thorough," he said.

Wilkins said the pumps will be checked for leaks during a test next month, and if necessary, repaired before Davis-Besse is put back in service, Wilkins said. The company wants to have the plant operating by summer.

The two pumps have not been inspected during the plant's 13-month outage, according to a memo written in August by two plant employees.

Some NRC officials have said the problem could have been found earlier, and that the plant operators put profits ahead of safety.

Jack Grobe, NRC oversight panel chairman, said the issue is not new, and the leakage did not exceed allowable limits.

Originally published Saturday, March 29, 2003

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