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July 19, 2002

 



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Local Companies | Article published July 19, 2002
84-ton reactor head arrives at Davis-Besse
Replacement part is critical for operations
Picture
(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.
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By KELLY LECKER and DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITERS


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.

The 187-foot 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 yesterday afternoon.

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 Township.

Despite its ominous look, the reactor vessel head on the truck was basically just a big chunk of steel.

Because the Midland plant never opened, the head has not been used and is not radioactive. Midland City Engineer Brian McManus knows; he checked.

"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 heads.

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.

The old 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 county.

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.

The only 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 pounds.


More articles on this subject »
Lake Erie security zones near 2 nuke plants now permanent 07/18/2002
Managers were lax at Davis-Besse facility, exec says 07/17/2002
Watchdog claims NRC downplayed nuke plant’s risk 07/10/2002
Davis-Besse officials work to regain trust of public, regulators 07/09/2002
Experts assail NRC study on Davis-Besse woes 07/09/2002

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