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NRC: Inspection errors hinder Davis-Besse restart

09/24/02

John Mangels
Plain Dealer Science Writer

Flaws in FirstEnergy Corp.'s inspections this summer to judge how badly leaking coolant damaged its Davis-Besse nuclear plant have drawn extra federal scrutiny and a possible delay in the reactor's restart.

The inspection gaffes broke two Nuclear Regulatory Commission rules, the agency announced in a report released yesterday. One violation had to do with incomplete guidelines the inspectors follow; the other involved insufficient training.

NRC inspectors double-checking FirstEnergy's work found that company inspectors had missed some corrosion and acid buildup - the consequence of years of undetected leaks from cracks in the reactor's lid. The acid in the reactor's coolant helps control the nuclear reaction but can rust metal parts. Leaking acid gradually ate a large hole in the lid, and airborne droplets corroded other parts. The Toledo-area plant has been shut down since Feb. 16 while the NRC supervises repairs.

After the inspection problems surfaced in July, FirstEnergy halted the work for a week for retraining and other corrections. The inspections have since been redone, and the program is greatly improved, a spokesman said. The violations were "more than minor," but still in the least serious of the NRC's four categories, the report stated. They could have jeopardized the plant's safety if allowed to persist, it stated.

The agency is performing follow-up checks and is not yet ready to OK FirstEnergy's corrosion inspection efforts, one of many items to be completed before the NRC will consider Davis-Besse's restart. The company says it still believes the reactor can be ready by Dec. 7.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

jmangels@plaind.com, 216-999-4842


2002 The Plain Dealer. Used with permission.
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