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October 08, 2002

 



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Local Companies | Article published October 8, 2002
Davis-Besse restart costs soar
FirstEnergy will 'expense' $115M for additional repairs
GENERATING EXPENSES
The estimated cost of repairing the damaged Davis-Besse nuclear power plant has grown. Where some of the money is expected to go:

  • Cost of maintenance, upgrades, and repairs - originally estimated at $50 million to $70 million - has risen, due in part to $27 million in projects that had been planned for future refueling outages that are being done now instead.

  • Costs are now estimated from $350 million to $435 million, provided the plant is allowed to start by early next year.

  • Costs associated with the corroded reactor head: $55 million to $75 million to replace the head and $130 million to $175 million for replacement power through the end of the year.

  • By KELLY LECKER
    BLADE STAFF WRITER


    OAK HARBOR, Ohio - Restarting the damaged Davis-Besse nuclear power plant will cost $115 million more than expected because of repairs and maintenance projects and won't occur by the end of the year as hoped, FirstEnergy Corp. said yesterday.

    The plant was shut down by a February refueling and the subsequent discovery that leaking boric acid had eaten a hole in the reactor head. FirstEnergy said yesterday the plant will restart next year but gave no specific date.

    The parent firm's announcement brings the estimated cost of repairs and maintenance at Davis-Besse to between $350 million and $435 million, provided the plant is allowed to start by early next year.

    The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it is up to Davis-Besse to set a timeline for getting the plant back online.

    "They told us their schedule was changing," said Jan Strasma, agency spokesman. "They do their own schedule."

    However, the plant, located 25 miles east of Toledo, will not be able to restart until the NRC inspects it and gives its approval.

    In March, plant employees found a football-sized hole in the reactor head, caused by boric acid leaking from nozzles that allow rods into the reactor that control the nuclear process. Boric acid is essential in operating the plant, but it is highly corrosive to carbon steel like that on the reactor head.

    The corrosion left only a thin layer of stainless steel to keep the radioactive steam from escaping into the containment building - the last line of defense from the public - and even that band of steel had begun to bulge and crack.

    Some of the expected costs associated with the corroded reactor head have not changed: $55 million to $75 million to replace the head; $130 million to $175 million for replacement power through the end of the year. But FirstEnergy said other costs of maintenance, upgrades, and repairs - originally estimated at $50 million to $70 million - have risen. That is due in part to $27 million in projects that had been planned for future refueling outages, when the plant is shut down, that are being done now instead.

    Work being done in the containment area in addition to replacing the reactor head includes redesigning and rebuilding the containment sump, work on the air coolers, painting, and maintenance and repairs on the reactor coolant pump, tower basin, and valves.

    Some of the repairs being done are connected to the boric acid corrosion; others are unrelated projects that needed to be done.

    "We want to have the plant in the best possible condition we can," FirstEnergy spokesman Todd Schneider said.

    The costs will be "expensed," or incorporated into operational expenses, he said.

    FirstEnergy estimated that its 2002 earnings would be reduced by 46 cents to 53 cents per share because of outage costs and the price of replacement energy. FirstEnergy Corp. stock closed at $29.21 yesterday, down 40 cents per share on the New York Stock Exchange.

    The NRC is investigating the corroded reactor head to find out what happened and to fix the problems before the plant is restarted. The agency has identified 10 violations it says Davis-Besse committed; fines have not been determined, and the agency is still investigating.

    Also yesterday, four members of Congress from Ohio, including Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), signed a statement encouraging Davis-Besse to convene a task force to study the feasibility of using a different type of fuel at the plant. The idea was proposed by the group Ohio Citizen Action last week.

    "Given the age of the facility, given the embattled reactor, it should be an option," said Amy Ryder, Ohio Citizen Action's program director in Cleveland.

    Mr. Schneider said converting an operating nuclear plant to another fuel is not an option.

    "You simply can't back up a coal plant and expect Davis-Besse to operate," he said. "You can't simply switch the fuels of an operating nuclear plant."

    The NRC will meet with Davis-Besse officials Oct. 16 at 2 p.m. to talk about what the company is doing. At 7 p.m., the agency will share information about its investigation with the public. Both meetings will be in the Oak Harbor High School auditorium at 11661 State Rt. 2.

    For earlier stories on Davis-Besse, go to www.toledoblade.com/davisbesse.


    More articles on this subject
    Customers won't face rate boosts for repairs 10/08/2002
    Terrorism ruled out in nuke plant incident 10/04/2002
    Man arrested with gun at nuclear plant 10/03/2002
    Feds test Davis-Besse contractors 10/02/2002
    Nuclear plant cited by regulators for violating procedures 09/24/2002

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