OAK HARBOR - FirstEnergy Corp. may know
next week if its Davis-Besse nuclear power plant will be ready to
restart before the end of summer.
Modifications to crucialDavis-Besse safety equipment, two high
pressure injection pumps that would keep the nuclear fuel cool in
the event of a major accident, have yet to pass all tests to show
that they will not clog and break during an emergency, FirstEnergy
andDavis-Besse executives told a Nuclear Regulatory Commission
oversight panel on Wednesday.
If the modifications don't pass, then the Akron utility is faced
with additional delays by having to replace the massive pumps with
new ones that it already bought as a precaution.
The most recent tests using mockups show that insulation fiber
mixed in reactor coolant can clog the modified pumps in as little as
15 minutes, the executives said during a meeting at Oak Harbor High
School. The tests are designed to simulate a loss-of-coolant
accident inside the containment chamber, which could blow loose
insulation, concrete and metal pieces and possibly damage safety
But the executives are confident that additional modifications
will resolve the clogging problem. Also, about 65 cubic feet of
fibrous insulation, identical to what clogged the pumps in the
tests, that is inside the containment chamber that surrounds the
reactor can be easily replaced with a different kind of shielding,
``We have to get through this HPI issue,'' said Lew Myers, chief
operating officer for First-Energy's nuclear operating company
subsidiary. Until the pump problem is resolved, he cannot give an
accurate timetable on when the plant on Lake Erie will be ready for
The pumps have to be functioning for other tests and inspections
to be completed atDavis-Besse. The plant has been kept shut down
since March 2002, when workers found a pineapple-sized corrosion
hole that nearly went all the way through the top of the reactor
vessel head that covers the nuclear fuel core. FirstEnergy has spent
hundreds of millions of dollars on repairs and on buying replacement
power while the plant has sat idle.
FirstEnergy spokesman Todd Schneider said the plant may be ready
for restart in the ``August time frame, give or take a few
The NRC oversight panel has a checklist of 31 items that must be
completed and passed before Davis-Besse will be allowed to restart.
The NRC, which has final say on restart, said Davis-Besse managers
and workers must demonstrate that they can safely operate the
So far, 13 of the 31 items have been completed, said Christine
Lipa, NRC official from the commission's regional office in Lisle,
Also Wednesday, Amy Ryder of Ohio Citizen Action gave the NRC
panel 450 letters she said were from 450 Northern Ohio residents who
do not want Davis-Besse to restart.