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  Wednesday, June 4, 2003

 Local News


First Energy pushes back restart of Davis-Besse plant until August
Full pressure test in July


Staff writer


CAMP PERRY -- Preliminary pressure tests have been completed at Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, and company officials are looking at early August for a possible restart date, they told federal regulators Tuesday.

The two pressure tests, which increased reactor coolant system pressure to 50 pounds per-square-inch and 250 pounds per-square-inch, respectively, were completed last month in an attempt to identify any valves in need of repair, according to officials from FirstEnergy, the parent company of Davis-Besse.

FirstEnergy Vice President and Davis-Besse Plant Manager Mark Bezilla said most of the necessary valve repairs have already been detected and completed.

The plant shut down in February 2002 when a startling amount of corrosion was detected on the reactor head. For the last 15 months, FirstEnergy has worked toward its goal of re-opening the plant under the supervision of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The tests were a precursor to full-pressure system test scheduled for mid-July. The full-pressure test would increase the pressure to about 2,155 pounds per-square-inch for seven days. The pressure then would he reduced, allowing crews to test the equipment and reactor vessel components.

FirstEnergy officials say they are encouraged by the tests, which, they say, put them on track to restart sometime in August.

"We're very pleased with the results of the tests" said FirstEnergy Chief Operating Officer Lew Myers. "We feel very solid right now about the performance of the (reactor coolant system). Shortly after (the full-pressure test in July), we're confident we'll be ready to reopen our unit at

the beginning of August."

NRC officials, however, stopped short of echoing Myers' confidence.

"We don't comment on their schedule for restart," said NRC spokesman Bill Ruland. "We base our opinions on their tests. Not their predictions."

Still, FirstEnergy remains convinced the plant's problems will be remedied sooner than later.

"We believe we know all of the issues that need to be resolved," said Restart Director Mike Ross. "And we continue to believe that all of these issues are, in fact, resolvable."

One of the chief problems that FirstEnergy has taken steps to resolve is the modification of the plant's two high pressure injection pumps, which are used to maintain circulating water to cool down the dangerously hot equipment in the reactor containment area.

One of the two pumps has been removed and shipped to the manufacturer for modification and the other pump is currently being removed and will also be sent away for repair. The pumps will be fitted with screens that will properly cool and lubricate the pumps should they be required to pull water from the sump into the reactor vessel.

Bob Schrauder, director of support services for FirstEnergy, said the company faced a decision early on to either replace the pumps completely or try to have them repaired.

"We have confirmed for ourselves that this modification will work," he said. "We looked at both replacing and modifying. We haven't abandoned the idea of replacement, but we've put it on hold. We have a very high confidence level with this approach."

Originally published Wednesday, June 4, 2003

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