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  Friday, October 4, 2002

 Local News

NRC cites 10 reactor head violations
Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant

Staff writer

CARROLL TOWNSHIP -- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission confirmed Thursday it found 10 violations of NRC rules at the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station during a summer-long investigation.

Many of the violations revolve around the plant's inability to clean boric acid off the reactor head -- as well as its inability to spot symptoms of a much bigger problem in boric acid corrosion.

The plant has been down since February because workers found a hole in the reactor head. In the ensuing investigations, it was found excessive boric acid leakage from the coolant water in the reactor ate away at the steel head, causing the hole.

The significance of the violations found, however, has not yet been determined -- though all were called "more than minor" in the report.

Since this team's exit interview with Davis-Besse parent company FirstEnergy in August, another team has been reviewing the violations to determine significance.

FirstEnergy spokesman Richard Wilkins said this morning the findings were anticipated, and that all were either fixed or in the process of being fixed.

"The findings in that report were pretty consistent with our own internal inquiries and root cause report," he said. "All will be addressed before we restart the plant."

Examples of the violations cited by the NRC include:

  • Allowing the plant to operate with what's called "pressure boundary leakage." That means the boric acid was allowed to leak through cracks in the reactor coolant system. Boric acid is added to the coolant water in the reactor to help control the nuclear reaction.

  • Multiple examples of inaccurate or incomplete information submitted by FirstEnergy to the NRC regarding Davis-Besse. "Completeness and accuracy in the documents associated with this issue would have provided an earlier alert to (FirstEnergy) staff and the U.S. NRC about the problems ...," wrote inspectors in a summary report.

  • Failing to clean the head adequately of boric acid, and failing to do anything to correct the problem that resulted in excessive boric acid on the head.

  • Failing to correct accumulations of boric acid on air cooler fins in the containment area. Company officials have said that build-up should have been an indication there was an unidentified leak on the reactor head. Failure to solve that problem likely contributed to the reactor head degradation.

  • Failing to investigate repeated clogging of radiation element filters, which also were an indication of boric acid degradation on the head.

  • Failing to identify leakage on the reactor head, which points to deficiencies in the company's Boric Acid corrosion Control program.

    Originally published Friday, October 4, 2002

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