| Article published Thursday, April 10, 2003|
Salvaged equipment considered for Besse FirstEnergy hopes
to speed up restart
BLADE STAFF WRITER
OAK HARBOR, Ohio - FirstEnergy Corp. is trying
to salvage major parts from another nuclear plant in hopes of
getting Davis-Besse back online sooner.
The company said
yesterday it has signed a purchase agreement with Framatome ANP of
France to buy an unused pair of high-pressure injection pumps that
were built for a never-completed nuclear plant in eastern
Those pumps are vital components of a nuclear
plant’s emergency backup system.
Barring any complications,
the Washington pumps - transferred to a vendor’s warehouse in
Oklahoma - will be used to replace Davis-Besse’s inadequately
designed pair. A final decision has not been made, despite the
purchase agreement, Richard Wilkins, a FirstEnergy spokesman,
"The reason we secured these pumps was to minimize any
impact on the schedule if we decide to use these pumps. We’re
getting a lot of that front-end work out of the way to save time,"
Buying newly made pumps could slow down restart
efforts by weeks, officials have said.
existing pumps is still a possibility, though Mr. Wilkins conceded
the company is "putting most of our focus" on replacing them with
the salvaged pumps.
The arrangement will be similar to one
FirstEnergy used to replace Davis-Besse’s heavily damaged reactor
head with an unused one from the mothballed Midland 2 nuclear plant
in central Michigan, Mr. Wilkins said.
The former Consumers
Power Co., now Consumers Energy, gave up on Midland 2 in 1985 before
finishing it. The availability of the Midland 2 head allowed
FirstEnergy to buy that plant’s 27-year-old hunk of steel to cover
FirstEnergy did that last year,
through an arrangement with Framatome, instead of waiting until
April, 2004, for construction to be completed on a reactor head it
is having made out of state-of-the-art metal.
one of the world’s largest nuclear contractors and has its domestic
headquarters in Lynchburg, Va. It owns the former Babcock &
Wilcox Co., which designed Davis-Besse and six other U.S. nuclear
Under the arrangement, Framatome bought the reactor
head and transferred ownership to FirstEnergy after the lid passed
The Washington pumps were built for one of four
nuclear plants at a complex near Richland, Wash., about 125 miles
west of Idaho. Those plants were mothballed between 1982 and 1995 by
the Washington Public Power Supply System.
high-pressure injection pumps because they would inject coolant over
the reactor core at high pressure if a nuclear accident occurs, in
hopes of avoiding a meltdown.
A FirstEnergy engineering team
recently told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that Davis-Besse’s
high-pressure injection pumps might clog in such an emergency,
rendering them useless. The theory is that bits of debris drawn off
the floor by the containment sump might get into the pumps, causing
their bearings to fail.
FirstEnergy said March 28 it would
pursue one of three courses of action: replacing the pumps,
rebuilding them, or installing a more efficient filter
The company is awaiting results of a feasibility
study, expected in two weeks, before making a decision. It is
leaning toward the replacement option, because it could result in
greater confidence and be more practical if done with the Washington
pumps, Mr. Wilkins said.
The pumps built for the Washington
site operate on 1,000 horsepower. Davis-Besse’s operated on 600
horsepower. Framatome will retrofit them so they can be used at
Davis-Besse, Mr. Wilkins said.
The NRC considers the plan
viable, provided the former Washington pumps can be retrofitted to
work at Davis-Besse, Jan Strasma, an agency spokesman, said. "It’s
an issue they have to deal with before startup," he
For earlier stories on Davis-Besse, go to