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  Wednesday, July 9, 2003

 Local News

Another setback looms for Davis-Besse restart

Staff writer

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 Commission.

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 safety-oriented.

Originally published Wednesday, July 9, 2003

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