|Local Companies | Article
published September 18, 2002|
for Davis-Besse restart this year
OAK HARBOR, Ohio - Despite additional problems
identified lately, FirstEnergy Corp. remains confident it will have
its troubled Davis-Besse nuclear plant operating again before the
end of the year.
But the head of a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory
Commission panel overseeing the utility’s replacement of the reactor
head isn’t so sure.
The plant, which is 25 miles east of
Toledo, has been idle since Feb. 16 when a six-inch cavity caused by
acid corrosion was discovered in the steel reactor head during a
normal refueling shutdown.
For complete coverage of
Davis-Besse go to www.toledoblade.com/davisbesse
executives announced yesterday that they have chosen Dec. 4 as the
target date for restarting the reactor after replacing the reactor
head and making repairs.
The utility hopes to have the plant
back at full power on Dec. 7.
FirstEnergy officials concede
those dates are subject to change: Not only can the pace of
remaining work be hard to predict, but the plant will have to pass
numerous inspections by the Nuclear Regulatory
The company said it plans to formally seek
commission approval for the restart on or about Nov. 18.
Grobe, chairman of an NRC oversight panel, told FirstEnergy
executives during yesterday’s monthly progress meeting at Oak Harbor
High School that they should not count on receiving approval for
such a quick turnaround.
When reporters later asked him to
elaborate, Mr. Grobe shrugged and replied, "It’s their schedule, not
"We are not driven by a schedule. We are driven by
their performance," he said. "We are not committed to a restart. We
are committed to safety."
During the meeting, Mr. Grobe
questioned FirstEnergy’s use of a crane to remove its damaged
reactor head. He said the work this summer jeopardized safety in a
quest to meet the utility’s aggressive timetable.
regulatory commission was told that the device, called a Polar
Crane, was used even though some utility officials were not pleased
by the quality of work the company received by some contractors
hired to make minor improvements to it.
The crane will also
be used to lift the replacement head, acquired from a plant in
Midland, Mich., onto the reactor.
Mike Stevens, FirstEnergy
director of work management, said he ordered a temporary work
shutdown after discovering that some of the repairs did not meet the
The repairs were described by Mr. Myers
as non-safety items such as missing screws and unlabeled wires - yet
Mr. Grobe said he was bothered that nobody from the plant had
stepped in before the work was done. Mr. Grobe said he considers
that an example in which FirstEnergy "sacrificed quality for
Lew Myers, FirstEnergy’s chief operating officer,
acknowledged during the meeting that the company has set forth a
"very, very aggressive" timetable, but added that he believes it is
realistic, give or take a week or two.
Mr. Myers again
promised improvements to avoid a repeat of the safety problems at
Davis-Besse, claiming FirstEnergy "will earn the right to lead
through our behaviors and actions."
"We have a lot of work to
do to regain the public’s confidence," he said.
shutdown at Davis-Besse was only supposed to last about one month,
When workers were sent into the Davis-Besse
reactor containment building in early March, however, they were
amazed to find a footprint-shaped hole in the reactor head that
nuclear safety experts say could have led to a major accident as
serious as that at Three Mile Island near Harrisburg, Pa., in
Only a thin liner of stainless steel was keeping part
of Davis-Besse’s reactor head intact. Boric acid is believed to have
leaked from the plant’s reactor throughout much of the 1990s, eating
through six inches of carbon steel that protects the reactor
If cracks found in the stainless steel liner had burst
and resulted in a hole, radioactive steam would have filled that
building, which is the public’s last line of defense.
lab tests show the cladding in that part of the reactor head was
barely two-tenths of an inch. Until last week, it was thought to be
a consistent three-eighths of an inch thick.
officials said a cluster of tiny, parallel cracks that the same lab
found in that part of the liner were actually about two inches in
length - slightly longer than announced last week.
interview yesterday with The Blade, Mr. Myers said he thinks the
utility can still correct the problems at Davis-Besse and meet its
timetable for restarting operation. "If everything goes extremely
well, it’s doable," he said.
The company’s plan for revamping
Davis-Besse’s management structure and operations is to be the focus
of another regulatory commission meeting this
For complete coverage of Davis-Besse go to www.toledoblade.com/davisbesse
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