WASHINGTON - The Nuclear Regulatory
Commission told the nation's nuclear power plants to start more
stringent inspections this week in response to acid corrosion found
on the reactor cap at an Ohio plant.
All 69 plants with pressurized water reactors must ensure the
reactor caps do not have cracks through visual inspections and
either chemical or ultrasonic tests. Plants identified as being at
high risk of acid corrosion must perform the tests more often.
Previously, plant operators had to perform only the visual
The order arose from the agency's internal investigation of how
it handled corrosion at the Davis-Besse plant, NRC Chairman Richard
Meserve said in prepared testimony for a congressional hearing on
Years of visual inspections at the plant in Oak Harbor, Ohio,
east of Toledo, missed boric acid leaks that nearly ate through the
6-inch-thick steel cap that covers the reactor vessel. That part of
the reactor was difficult to access and observe because of metal
insulation inches above it.
The nuclear plant, operated by Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp., has
been shut down since February 2002, when it was closed for
maintenance. The corrosion was discovered last March.
Ohio Sen. George Voinovich, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee
on Clean Air, Climate Change and Nuclear Safety, scheduled a hearing
Thursday on how the NRC handled the Davis-Besse situation.
Meserve said in prepared testimony that the agency has "focused
on mistakes the NRC made in dealing with boric acid corrosion issues
in the 1990s."
"This degradation was preventable, and the licensee's actions
leading up to the discovery of the corrosion in March 2002 are
unacceptable," Meserve's testimony said.
Federal regulators have admitted they suspected the Davis-Besse
reactor had cracks but haven't explained why they didn't shut the
plant down sooner.
A report released recently by the NRC's inspector general said
agency officials could have shut the plant down several months
before the hole was discovered but wanted to avoid hurting the owner
ON THE NET
Nuclear Regulatory Commission: http://www.nrc.gov/
FirstEnergy Corp.: http://www.firstenergycorp.com/
Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate Change and Nuclear