PORT CLINTON - The Davis-Besse nuclear plant
is inching closer to restarting, owner FirstEnergy Corp. said
And by the end of the summer, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
will have increased staff watching over the plant in Oak Harbor,
about 25 miles east of Toledo.
The NRC announced that it will have three, instead of a typical
complement of two, resident inspectors for the foreseeable future.
The NRC inspectors, who are stationed at power plants and live in
the surrounding community, are responsible for checking the nuclear
plant's safety equipment and making sure the plant is being run
FirstEnergy executives told an NRC oversight panel on Tuesday
that they are nearing completion of most items on a massive restart
FirstEnergy now hopes to have the plant ready for restart
sometime in August, though the NRC has final say. The company has
continually pushed back restart dates since the plant was shut down
after unprecedented boric acid damage was discovered in March 2002
on top of the reactor vessel head that covers the fuel core.
The most significant hurdle remaining is a test, seven days long
and scheduled for mid-July, to check for leaks in the reactor
vessel, which holds the uranium fuel. FirstEnergy found rust around
an inspection tube at the bottom of the vessel and has been trying
to determine if coolant leaked from the tube or if coolant washed
down the side of the massive steel structure.
``Shortly after that (test), from a plant standpoint, we will be
ready for restart of the unit,'' Lew Myers, chief operating officer
for FirstEnergy's nuclear operating company, told the NRC oversight
panel at a public meeting held on the Camp Perry grounds.
The seven-day test will involve most of the plant's systems, and,
if no problems are found, should allow FirstEnergy to sign off on a
lot of work that has been completed but hasn't been given final
clearance by the NRC, a FirstEnergy spokesman said.
The plant successfully completed preliminary reactor coolant
system pressure tests that were designed to see if any valves needed
to be repaired. The tests showed new coolant leaks around some
valves, but Bill Ruland, vice chairman of the NRC's Davis-Besse
oversight panel, called those minor issues.
Small leaks were expected, FirstEnergy spokesman Richard Wilkins
said. The valves will be repacked to stop the leaks, he said.
Monica Salter-Williams will be the third resident inspector
starting in September, the NRC said. She joined the NRC in 2002, and
prior to that was an engineer at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant
near Harrisburg, Pa.
Salter-Williams will join Christopher Thomas and John Rutkowski.
Thomas, the plant's senior resident inspector, came to Davis-Besse
in January 2002. Rutkowski recently became a resident inspector at
Davis-Besse, the NRC said. He succeeds Doug Simpkins, who was a
resident inspector at the plant since 1999, and who is now senior
resident inspector at the Hatch nuclear plant in Georgia.
FirstEnergy has decided to modify, not replace, two 6,000-pound
high-pressure injection pumps. In case of an accident, the devices
are designed to pump coolant from a sump system into the reactor
vessel to keep the reactor from overheating. The utility found the
pumps could clog under some accident scenarios. Strainers are being
added to make those problems less likely. Modifying the pumps
instead of replacing them means the company does not have to go
through a lengthy NRC oversight process.