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Investigators to release report on Ohio nuclear plant damage

The Associated Press
4/5/02 12:39 AM

OAK HARBOR, Ohio (AP) -- Federal inspectors have finished their investigation into two acid leaks that ate through a nuclear plant's steel cap covering the reactor vessel.

Preliminary findings were expected to be released Friday.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors went to the Davis-Besse nuclear plant after the damage was discovered in early March.

Plant employees found leaking boric acid created a 6-inch hole in the steel cap near a cracked control rod nozzle. The hole was stopped by a steel layer impervious to the acid.

The NRC said it was the most extensive corrosion ever found on top of a U.S. nuclear plant reactor. Inspectors spotted a second cavity two weeks later.

The NRC said the damage did not pose a safety threat, but did order operators of all 69 pressurized water reactors in the U.S. to submit information on the structural integrity of their plant's reactor head.

The holes were discovered while the nuclear plant, which is along Lake Erie and about 25 miles east of Toledo, was shut down for normal refueling and maintenance. Crews were repairing five control rod nozzles after cracks had been found.

The damage to the reactor's steel cap will keep the plant shut down until at least June.

The acid is a byproduct of the nuclear fission process inside the reactor. The reactor has 69 control rods. The nozzles are vertical tubes that house the rods, which absorb excess neutrons in the reactor core.

Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp., the plant's operator, plans to install a new reactor head during the plant's next refueling shutdown in 2004. The company said a new reactor cannot be installed now because it will take months to build.

FirstEnergy will tell regulators next week about its plans to repair the original reactor head. The plan will need NRC approval.


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