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September 14, 2002

 



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Local Companies | Article published September 14, 2002
IN VIRGINIA
Power plant to install new reactor heads as precaution

By KELLY LECKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER


RICHMOND, Va. - To head off serious safety concerns like the corrosion at Davis-Besse nuclear power plant, a Virginia-based energy company says it plans to replace four reactor heads at two of its nuclear plants.

Dominion placed a $175 million order for the reactor heads and said it will have them installed at its North Anna and Surry plants, both in Virginia, by 2005. The heads will be replaced when the plants are shut down for refueling.

For complete coverage of Davis-Besse go to www.toledoblade.com/davisbesse

The company is one of the first to announce officially it will replace its reactor heads, a costly move for nuclear plants, to avoid having problems like the ones found at Davis-Besse, where boric acid caused a football-sized hole in the head. The corrosion left only a thin layer of stainless steel to cover the reactor and keep radioactive steam from escaping into the concrete containment building.

Davis-Besse has been shut down since February so the plant and federal regulators can learn what happened and fix the problems.

"It’s not anything like Davis-Besse," Dominion spokesman Richard Zuercher said, adding that the Virginia plants are going through the process of renewing their operating licenses. "We want to detect problems early and fix them."

The NRC has said none of the 68 nuclear plants inspected after the leaks were found has anywhere near the corrosion found at Davis-Besse.

NRC spokesman Victor Dricks said the agency requires plants to comply with regulations, but it does not require any of the plants to replace the heads.

The Dominion plants were inspected last year, after cracks were found in the control rod drive mechanism nozzles at the Oconee plant.These nozzles are like sleeves that guide control rods in and out of the uranium, controlling the nuclear process and allowing the plant to be shut down.

These through-wall cracks were found at two of the Virginia plants, and apparently boric acid was leaking from the cracks. Boric acid, used to slow down the nuclear process, is what ate away at Davis-Besse’s reactor head. Dominion ordered repairs on the heads until it could get the replacements installed. The head did not have significant corrosion.

Dominion’s other two plants, which are in Connecticut, do not need to have new heads, Mr. Zuercher said.

The plants were inspected in 1996 after cracks were found in nozzles at some nuclear power plants in France. There was no cracking at Dominion’s plant, Mr. Zuercher said.

Representatives from FirstEnergy Corp., which owns and operates Davis-Besse, will meet with NRC officials Tuesday and Wednesday in Oak Harbor.

For complete coverage of Davis-Besse, go to www.toledoblade.com/davisbesse


More articles on this subject
Tests on Davis-Besse reactor reveal more cracks, corrosion 09/11/2002
NRC to update residents on efforts at power plant 09/10/2002
Next question: Why weren’t the slip-ups at Davis-Besse discovered earlier? 09/01/2002
Reactor head moved into nuclear plant 08/31/2002
Bad reactor head removed 08/30/2002

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