CARROLL TOWNSHIP -- Once again, potential restart dates for
Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station are in flux -- possibly getting
pushed back to early September.
The problem involves tests on emergency pumps that flow coolant
water into the reactor head in the case of an accident. It is
expected to be discussed today during the 2 p.m. monthly meeting
between plant operator FirstEnergy and the Nuclear Regulatory
The plant has been planning to make improvements in the
equipment, called high-pressure injection pumps, to include a filter
so debris can't clog parts in the pumps.
The catch, though, is the filter isn't cleaning itself like it
should, which means it isn't clearing debris that potentially could
clog its inner workings. A clog may stop the pumps from working and
prompt a chain reaction resulting in no cooling water getting to the
reactor core and a possible meltdown, worst case scenario.
Portions of the pump are undergoing tests now at Wylie Labs in
Huntsville, Ala., and those are expected to deliver final results by
early next week.
"We were testing the modification, and the testing -- as it
should -- identified some areas we need to make improvements in,"
said FirstEnergy spokesman Todd Schneider on Tuesday. "As we found
out, the debris is not coming off the screen as was expected. We're
doing more tests this week with a different design, a different
screen that hopefully will improve its self-cleaning."
Because the pumps operate with high pressure, they are designed
to clean themselves, which is supposed to purge the screens, or
filters, of debris.
But since that's not happening, alternate designs are being
formulated, with the backup plan of having two replacement pumps on
hold in case they are needed.
All of this, though, along with Nuclear Regulatory Commission
inspection schedules, is pushing FirstEnergy's start date to late
August or possibly the first week or two in September.
"Right now, we have not given up on the modification, we're still
pursuing that," Schneider added.
The Davis-Besse plant has been off-line for more than a year
after workers found massive amounts of corrosion on the reactor head
during a routine refueling outage. Since then, workers have been
repairing various parts of the plant, and management has been
overhauling programs in an attempt to make all employees more
Originally published Wednesday, July 9, 2003