Companies | Article published October 8, 2002|
Davis-Besse restart costs soar
FirstEnergy will 'expense' $115M for additional
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
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
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
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.
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
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it is up to
Davis-Besse to set a timeline for getting the plant back
"They told us their schedule was changing," said Jan
Strasma, agency spokesman. "They do their own
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
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
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
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
"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
"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.
earlier stories on Davis-Besse, go to
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