OAK HARBOR - FirstEnergy hopes to restart
its Davis-Besse nuclear power plant as soon as Dec. 7, but it is
again being forced to explain shoddy workmanship, this time
regarding the crane used to lift a huge replacement part into
Meeting with FirstEnergy managers Tuesday at Oak Harbor High
School, Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials said they still have
many questions about the plant and its work force, including
In particular, NRC officials questioned why plant managers and
supervisors did not prevent slipshod workmanship on the large crane
inside the reactor. The upgrade was started after the crane had been
used to help remove the old vessel head and install the new one.
The NRC and FirstEnergy are scheduled to meet this morning to
discuss how the Akron utility is working to correct management and
work force deficiencies at the power plant.
``It's clear that in at least one work activity you haven't
addressed the issues,'' Jack Grobe, an NRC official, said. ``It's
critical those expectations come to life in the plant.''
NRC permission is necessary before the plant can restart, but he
said more work needs to be done.
``The important thing is, we are not committed to restart,'' said
Grobe, chairman of a panel checking into the readiness of
Davis-Besse. ``We are committed to safety.''
Mike Stevens, director of maintenance at Davis-Besse, said he
discovered during an inspection of work on the interior crane that
screws were missing on some panels, light bulbs were out, metal
shavings were left behind and other parts of the project did not
meet standards. The crane was being upgraded by a contractor, he
A contractor's employee working on the crane was more concerned
about meeting a schedule than replacing light bulbs or making sure
all the panel screws were filled in, Stevens said. While work on the
crane has been halted, he and others have used the opportunity to
emphasize to plant employees and contractors the need to meet
quality goals, not schedules, he said.
``The crane wasn't falling apart,'' said Lew Myers, chief
operating officer for FirstEnergy's Nuclear Operating Co. ``It just
didn't meet our requirements.''
The crane work did not affect plant safety, Grobe said. He said
his concern is that it took Stevens, a senior manager, to catch the
Work continues to progress at the plant, including major upgrades
of some safety systems, FirstEnergy managers said. About 1,300
contractors are on site working on repairs, upgrades and
maintenance, Myers said. The plant has about 800 full-time employees
Davis-Besse has been kept shut down since early March after a
safety inspection found two boric acid-created cavities on top of
the plant's former reactor vessel head. The Akron utility has
acknowledged that its concerns about profit, not safety, led to the
damage. An inspection of the damaged vessel head in the past two
weeks found tiny cracks on a thin stainless steel lining, all that
was left to hold back high pressure, radioactive coolant at the
location of the largest of the two cavities.
The new vessel head is in place, and nuclear fuel could be
installed as early as Oct. 30 as part of a testing process to bring
the plant back up to full power and generating electricity by early
December, FirstEnergy managers said. The NRC does not have to
approve the refueling, Grobe said. A schedule unveiled at Tuesday's
meeting showed that FirstEnergy hopes to get NRC approval to restart
the nuclear plant on Nov. 18 and gradually bring it up to full
``There's a lot that has to happen before then,'' Grobe said.
Final authority on allowing Davis-Besse to restart rests with NRC
regional administrator Jim Dyer, in consultation with NRC
headquarters, Grobe said.
A massive hole cut into the concrete and steel containment
building that protects the nuclear reactor will be repaired in
upcoming weeks. The hole was needed to remove the old vessel head
and to install the new one, which came from an unused nuclear
reactor in Michigan.
FirstEnergy will install a new sump system at Davis-Besse that
will significantly improve plant safety if there is a loss of
coolant accident inside the containment chamber, officials said. The
sump would be used to recirculate water back into the reactor to
keep it cool. The larger the sump, the better the safety margin,
officials said. The Davis-Besse upgrade will enlarge the area of the
sump from about 50 square feet to as much as 1,200 square feet.
The company will also install a new, permanent seal around the
reactor at a cost of several million dollars that will minimize
coolant leaks that typically occur during the refueling process,
Myers said. The company previously has used a series of temporary
seals that were prone to leaks, he said.
Cost of the repair project could hit as much as $300