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September 24, 2002

 



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Local Companies | Article published September 24, 2002
DAVIS-BESSE
Nuclear plant cited by regulators for violating procedures
FirstEnergy sticks to Dec. 4 restart

By TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER


OAK HARBOR, Ohio - Federal inspectors have found more administrative problems at Davis-Besse, even as FirstEnergy Corp. claims to be getting the nuclear plant in shape for a possible restart on Dec. 4.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has cited FirstEnergy for two procedural violations related to post-shutdown activities - one for failing to make clear how certain aspects of the plant’s containment area were to be inspected this summer, and one for failing to provide adequate training and certification for workers doing the walk-down checks in that part of the plant.

Several NRC officials described the violations as low in terms of immediate risk to plant safety, yet not insignificant because of their potential for leading to bigger problems.

(For more Davis-Besse coverage, go to www.toledoblade.com/davisbesse)

Agency officials said they view them as symptoms of a broader issue: FirstEnergy’s ongoing performance problems.

Jack Grobe, chairman of an NRC oversight panel monitoring restart activities, said they are basic oversights that shouldn’t happen anywhere, let alone at a plant under intense scrutiny.

"The plant won’t restart until these [type of administrative] problems are fixed to our satisfaction," he said.

Davis-Besse has been idle since Feb. 16 with a reactor head problem unprecedented in U.S. nuclear history. Boric acid seeped through nozzles and ate a milk-jug-sized hole in the reactor’s massive steel lid, leaving only a thin liner in one section and bringing northwest Ohio to the verge of what could have been America’s first major accident at a nuclear plant since Three Mile Island in 1979.

Davis-Besse’s unexpected woes have prompted the NRC to take a harder look at its own regulations on a national level.

The inspection period for the latest procedural violations was from June 10 through June 21, and July 22 through July 26. The report on the inspection was issued Friday.

Three days earlier, during a monthly meeting last Tuesday afternoon, NRC officials expressed dismay about a different performance issue: A delay in identifying problems with a crane used to remove the plant’s damaged reactor head.

A senior-level FirstEnergy official told the NRC that day he had recently called together project managers and ordered a temporary work "stand-down" to send a message throughout the plant, because front-line workers did not identify problems with the crane themselves.

Richard Wilkins, FirstEnergy spokesman, said yesterday the utility is determined to win back the NRC’s confidence and stick to its latest timetable, which calls for having the plant running Dec. 4 and at full power by Dec. 7.

The company’s plan is to seek NRC authorization for the restart on Nov. 18.

He said FirstEnergy management, as well as the NRC, "expects us to be closer to perfection than we are."

"We simply have to do each one of those activities right the first time,’’ Mr. Wilkins said.

(For more Davis-Besse coverage, go to www.toledoblade.com/davisbesse)


More articles on this subject
Changes, dismissals occur at Davis-Besse 09/20/2002
Operators quizzed on reactor oversight 09/19/2002
Utility aims for Davis-Besse restart this year 09/18/2002
Power plant to install new reactor heads as precaution 09/14/2002
Tests on Davis-Besse reactor reveal more cracks, corrosion 09/11/2002

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