OAK HARBOR -- FirstEnergy officials said
Tuesday the utility company hopes to have its beleaguered
Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station up to full power by Dec. 7.
The problem is, the governmental regulating agency isn't quite in
agreement with the plan.
FirstEnergy leaders are looking at asking the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission for permission to partially restart by Nov. 18, just two
The plant has been shut down since workers found a football-sized
hole in the reactor head -- a product of boric acid corrosion that
had been occurring for years.
Officials talked of getting the containment building ready for a
non-nuclear heat-up by Nov. 19, and a final 100-percent power up by
One NRC regulator, however, questioned the plant's ability to
restart before federal officials have a chance to view the reactor
head's ability to function at partial capacity.
NRC officials, too, want to make sure the attitude has changed
within the plant as well before FirstEnergy can even ask for restart
The head of a the NRC's oversight panel, Jack Grobe, would not
comment at a later meeting Tuesday, saying only that the plant will
restart when the NRC is satisfied operation there is safe.
"The NRC is not driven by or bound to any schedule -- if and when
the plant is ready, then we'll give permission," he said.
One incident in particular was a sticking point at Tuesday's
meeting, a monthly occurrence between FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating
Co. officials and the NRC's oversight committee.
That incident involved the polar crane, which is used inside the
containment building to assemble and disassemble the reactor
And while Grobe cautioned that problems found with the polar
crane are not safety issues, they do show the quality, or lack
thereof, of workmanship that has caused problems in the past.
The crane was found to be in "unacceptable condition" when plant
official Mike Stevens personally looked it over. The inspection,
however, occurred after the old reactor head was taken out and new
one was installed -- using the polar crane.
The crane, FirstEnergy officials explained, was up to minimum
standards, but in places was missing bolts that held the steel
together. It also was missing wire labeling, had some metal shaving
debris on it and light bulbs were found to be burned out.
The crane served as sort of a metaphor for the type of work that
has plagued the plant and hindered it from operating properly.
Stevens said upon further investigation, he found the contractor
that made improvements to the crane sped up work to meet the plant's
That is exactly the type of behavior officials at the Akron-based
energy company found workers were doing in the past couple of years,
which eventually led to the reactor head corrosion being missed.
In the evening meeting with just NRC officials answering
questions from the public, NRC official Bill Dean said this about
the situation: "It reveals and indicates that some of the underlying
issues that led to vessel head degradation still need to be
|Stevens told the NRC in the afternoon meeting after the
polar crane problems were found, senior level management
stopped work and held a meeting with project managers to
emphasize a focus on quality, not necessarily hitting the
||"If it's not right, we can't go forward, so move the
date," Stevens said of what he told project managers. "If
there was any question ... on how we should proceed, that
should be alleviated."
FENOC Chief Operating Officer Lew Myers added that there are
1,300 contractors swarming the Davis-Besse plant at the moment,
making improvements, doing inspections and doing general repairs.
He added the crane improvements were hired out to a crane vendor
that employs experts in the field.
"We're going to stop when we need to stop, and that's the message
we want to give you guys," Myers told the panel of NRC officials.
And that seemed to be what Grobe wanted to hear -- he told Myers
he was glad the plant "stood down" until expectations could be
explained and reinforced to workers and contractors.
"It's critical those expectations come to life at the plant,"
NRC officials pressed FirstEnergy bosses, though, about the
amount of contractors at the plant and how their work could be
verified to make sure it meets the plant's new standards.
In fact, through the company's walk downs of every department,
every process and program, workers, contractors and managers have
come up with 1,474 condition reports -- or things that need to be
Many of those condition reports will likely result in several
actions required to correct the problem. Once those conditions are
identified, plant and independent officials will determine which are
critical for restart, and which can wait until after the plant is
Grobe said during the evening meeting that work is progressing at
Davis-Besse, and many things are being done correctly. However,
there have been things done incorrectly that inspectors have caught
and employees or contractors have been required to perform the work
"I don't want to leave the impression all the work being done at
Davis-Besse is being done poorly," Grobe said. "I also don't want to
leave the impression that we have the belief all the problems have