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March 19, 2002

 



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Regional News | Article published March 19, 2002
More damage found on Davis-Besse reactor

By TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER


OAK HARBOR - More damage has been found on top of FirstEnergy Corp.’s Davis-Besse nuclear plant reactor.

Boric acid from the reactor is now believed to have escaped through two points of the dome-shaped, 17-foot-wide steel lid that covers the vessel, Richard Wilkins, FirstEnergy spokesman, said last night. In each case, the acid has gotten through cracks in long steel tubes known as control rod drive mechanism nozzles.

The nozzles, welded into the reactor head, are primary safety devices because they help operators control what goes on inside the reactor.

The latest inspection revealed the same type of evidence that led to last week’s initial discovery of massive corrosion: Salt-like deposits of boric acid on top of the reactor head next to a cracked nozzle, Mr. Wilkins said.

Officials have described the corrosion found around one nozzle last week as the worst of its kind on a U.S. nuclear reactor head.

Boric acid burned through all six inches of carbon steel on top of the vessel head, creating a cavity about four inches wide and five inches across. It was stopped by only a half-inch of stainless steel, which is impervious to that type of acid.

The extent of the damage of the latest discovery won’t be known for about two weeks, in part because the nozzle in question is hard to remove. Much of the work will be done by robotic equipment, Mr. Wilkins said.

Jan Strasma, spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Midwest regional office in Lisle, Ill., was not available for comment last night.

The plant has been shut down since Feb. 16, when it was taken off line for refueling. The utility brought in about 50 experts from across the country to discuss what repairs should be made after the initial corrosion was found.

The government agency sent in its own team of inspectors, and notified all other nuclear plants to be on the lookout for similar problems. FirstEnergy announced last week that the plant could remain idle until the end of June, possibly three months longer than originally planned. It was not immediately known if the discovery of additional corrosion will cause a further delay, Mr. Wilkins said.


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