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TVA checking possible Sequoyah Tenn. nuke lid leak
Reuters, 03.27.03, 1:03 PM ET


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NEW YORK, March 27 (Reuters) - TVA Nuclear said Thursday it was checking a possible leak in the reactor lid at a Tennessee plant that may be similar to leaks at other reactors already expected to cost the U.S. nuclear industry over $1 billion to repair.

Indications of a leak were found in the reactor lid capping the 1,148 megawatt Sequoyah nuclear unit 1 in Soddy-Daisy along the Tennessee River in southeastern Tennessee, TVA spokesman Terry Johnson said.

"Plant personal were doing an inspection on the reactor vessel head and they found indications of a boric acid leak on top of the reactor vessel," Johnson said.

The U.S. nuclear power industry was taken by surprise early last year when a hole eaten by boric acid from a cooling system was found in the lid of the FirstEnergy's 925 MW Davis-Besse plant in Oak Harbor, Ohio.

The discovery of the hole prompted the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to order special reactor vessel head inspections at all 69 of the nation's pressurized water reactors, which are the same design as Davis-Besse.

The pressurized water reactors make up about 12 percent of U.S. power generation capacity.

Companies that are willing to talk about the cost have estimated the reactor vessel head replacement at about $60 million per unit.

The Sequoyah plant is a newer design than Davis-Besse, and had been deemed by the NRC to be of a lower susceptibility to vessel head corrosion.

TVA had said late last year that it did not expect to replace the reactor vessel heads at the two Sequoyah nuclear unit s.

However, TVA's Johnson said Thursday those plans could change in light of the recent indications of a lid leak.

"It is too early to tell whether or not there will be a vessel head replacement -- that is going to be a decision based on what we find as we continue to conduct these inspections on the reactor vessel," he said.

The potential leak was discovered while the plant was shut for scheduled refueling and steam generator replacement, and presented no danger to the public or plant personnel, he said.

The NRC, the nation's federal nuclear watchdog, said it was too early to tell if the potential leak would mean further increased scrutiny of reactor vessel heads.

"They still need to do more testing to find out exactly what they are dealing with (at Sequoyah)," NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said.

"Depending on what those results come out to be, the staff here will see if anything warrants a change in the inspection regime," he said.

One megawatt is roughly enough to power 1,000 average homes.

Copyright 2003, Reuters News Service

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