CARROLL TOWNSHIP -- Those passing the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power
Station today may see tufts of steam coming from the cooling tower
-- but the plant hasn't restarted.
It's entering the first day of a 10- to 12-day test that will
evaluate the reactor coolant system by bringing it up to its natural
pressure and temperature of 2,155 pounds per square inch and 532
"I'll say this is the dress rehearsal for actual restart," said
Mark Bezilla, plant manager, during a monthly meeting between
FirstEnergy -- operator of the Davis-Besse plant -- and the Nuclear
The plant has been off-line since February 2002, when during a
routine refueling outage workers found an unprecedented amount of
corrosion on the reactor vessel head. Since then, the plant has been
overhauled in all aspects, including management, equipment and
The pressure test is expected to take a couple of days to reach
the pressure and temperature goals, then those will be held for
seven days before the pressure and heat are reduced. And company
officials are realistic about the expected results.
"We don't expect this to be clean," said Lew Myers, FirstEnergy
Nuclear Operating Co. chief operating officer. "We expect to find
more problems and go and fix them."
Nevertheless, plant officials say the test is a "major milestone"
and will be followed in the coming months with a request for
The heat-up for the test will occur via the reactor coolant pumps
and not the reactor fuel, although the fuel will be in the reactor
at the time. During the test, plant workers, independent assessors,
NRC inspectors and FirstEnergy quality assurance personnel will
evaluate every aspect of operations.
Plant workers will conduct "walkdowns" in which they will perform
more than 1,000 visual inspections of the reactor coolant system and
all its components. After three days, those walkdowns will be
Among those many inspections will be reviews of the control rod
drive mechanisms, which is where initial corrosion problems were
found in March 2002
during a routine refueling outage. Workers also will check nozzle
penetrations on the bottom of the reactor head, which has evidence
of boric acid leakage on it.
Bazilla said what will likely happen is workers will peel some
insulation off the bottom while the test is occurring to check it,
then after the cool-down period take off all the insulation for a
Newcomer Rick Dame, who came to Davis-Besse from the Perry
Nuclear Plant in Lake County, also introduced a chart that shows the
amount of oversight during the test.
It included plant managers, external assessors and quality
assurance personnel watching over the test procedures.
"I think this overall plan is well-conceived," said Jack Grobe,
chairman of the NRC's oversight panel that is watching FirstEnergy's
progress. "You're putting experienced, qualified people in at the
"It's a very solid plan, and I think it'll give you a lot of