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Posted on Wed, Sep. 18, 2002
Davis-Besse plans winter restart

FirstEnergy Corp. has set a restart date of Dec. 7 for its Davis-Besse nuclear plant near Toledo.

"This is doable," said Lew Myers, chief operating officer of FirstEnergy Corp.'s nuclear division. "You don't make a schedule to fail."

But the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would not commit to FirstEnergy's timetable during a monthly meeting Tuesday to review progress in the plant's repair.

During a maintenance shutdown, investigators in March found that boric acid had nearly eaten through a 6-inch steel cap on the reactor vessel. The plant has been closed since then.

It was the most extensive corrosion found on a U.S. nuclear reactor and led to a nationwide review of all 69 similar plants. Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. is spending an estimated $55 million to $75 million to replace the reactor head.

The NRC wants to make sure that not only are the equipment repairs completed properly, but also that the management lapses that allowed the corrosion to fester for years are fixed.

"We are not driven by schedule but by performance," said Jack Grobe, who heads the special NRC panel overseeing the rehabilitation of the Toledo-area plant.

On Oct. 30, Davis-Besse managers hope to reload the reactor's radioactive fuel rods into the core. On Nov. 3, they'll bolt down the new lid.

After tests, the reactor will be brought up to its normal 605-degree operating temperature on Nov. 19, and 15 days later, if the NRC gives its approval, the reactor would be restarted. It should be at full power by Dec. 7.

But all that depends on the successful resolution of more than 1,400 reports citing conditions within the plant that need to be corrected. The restart also will require the approval of the NRC's Midwest regional director and other officials.

One of the projects FirstEnergy is undertaking to improve Davis-Besse is an improvement of a safety system that keeps the reactor supplied with coolant if there is a large pipe leak.

The emergency system pulls spilled coolant from a sump in the floor of the reactor building and recirculates it. The coolant flows through a filter screen, which experts worry could become blocked by debris.

At Davis-Besse, engineers have augmented the sump with a network of perforated pipes that will snake across the containment building floor, decreasing the chance of a clog.

Plant manager Randy Fast said the improvement will put it in a leadership role in the nuclear industry.

Information from: The Plain Dealer

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