Companies | Article published July 19, 2002|
84-ton reactor head arrives at
Replacement part is
critical for operations
(THE BLADE/LORI KING)A replacement reactor
vessel head is safely transferred from the truck that had
brought it from Midland, Mich., to a flatbed that will
transport it to its final destination, the Davis-Besse nuclear
power plant, which is in the background.
By KELLY LECKER and
OAK HARBOR, Ohio - A 250-mile road trip might
not seem long to the hardy and carefree.
But try doing it
with an 84-ton passenger.
A super-load truck carried a
replacement reactor vessel head from a plant in Midland, Mich., to
the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant. The head will replace the one
that sits atop the reactor, because that vessel head was corroded by
boric acid leaking from a nozzle.
tractor-trailer rig left Midland, near Michigan’s thumb, just before
10 a.m. Wednesday, drove through Michigan, and spent the night at a
truck stop in Whiteford Township before crossing into Ohio about 9
a.m. for inspection.
The load looped around Toledo, crawling
along at a walking pace on one bridge, 10 to 20 mph on others,
before it cruised to Oak Harbor at 30 to 45 mph. It arrived
The whole package, including the truck,
weighed 415,000 pounds and was 18-feet wide, and the load and its
convoy attracted quite its share of gawkers.
"I got the boys
out of bed - my husband said, ‘Go see it.’ You don’t see something
that big that closes off the road every day," said Alison Mowery of
West Toledo, who brought her three children and two neighbor boys to
the Monroe Street bridge over U.S. 23 in Sylvania
Despite its ominous look, the reactor vessel head
on the truck was basically just a big chunk of steel.
the Midland plant never opened, the head has not been used and is
not radioactive. Midland City Engineer Brian McManus knows; he
"We knew it was never used, but we weren’t sure if
they’d tested things there or what. We had them submit documentation
saying it was never used," Mr. McManus said.
The head was
moved by crane from the big truck to a smaller vehicle at
Davis-Besse, watched by armed guards. It will be stored on plant
grounds until it’s ready to be put on the reactor. Sometime in the
next 21/2 months, workers will cut the containment building - the
building that surrounds the reactor - to exchange reactor
Two nozzles on a water jet system are put on a
framework and move back and forth across the area to be cut,
spraying water at 20,000 pounds per square inch and essentially
dissolving the concrete.
Then the steel reinforcement - or
rebar - and the lining of the containment - a 11/2 -inch thick liner
that is another protection barrier between the reactor and the
building - are cut.
The reactor head is 16-feet-6-inches in
diameter and nearly 81/2 feet tall.
The old reactor vessel
head will be stored at the plant and, since it has radiation on it,
it will have protective covering. That head will be moved to a
low-level radiological waste facility. The largest one is in
Barnwell, S.C., though it isn’t clear where this one will go.
FirstEnergy spokesman Richard Wilkins said he was not sure whether
the vessel head would be cut or transported whole.
reactor head has a milk-jug-sized hole from boric acid that leaked
onto the surface. The Davis-Besse plant is shut down while company
officials and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission learn what happened
and prepare to restart.
Hauling the reactor vessel head
required approval from transportation departments in both states as
well as from the Midland the city and Midland the
State police in Michigan and Ohio escorted the load.
In Ohio, troopers set up "rolling roadblocks" to keep traffic away
because nobody could travel with the load or pass the giant truck
when it was crossing 13 bridges.
After entering Ohio, the
truck turned east onto I-475 and followed I-75 across the DiSalle
bridge to Ohio 795. The truck headed north on I-280, exiting at
Wheeling Street before turning east on Ohio Rt. 2.
significant congestion during the trip occurred when the truck had
to turn at several freeway ramps, at two intersections in Oregon,
and into a Davis-Besse access road.
Sgt. Jim Kertesz, from
the Ohio Highway Patrol’s Toledo post, said shipments of similar
size travel Toledo-area freeways "fairly often," but generally don’t
attract as much attention.
Mr. McManus, city engineer in
Midland, said there have been three or four loads as big as the
reactor vessel head coming through town; the largest being 500,000
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