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October 17, 2002

 



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Local Companies | Article published October 17, 2002
Nuclear plant studies old reactor for other leaks, source of acid

OAK HARBOR, Ohio - Officials at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant are looking at rust found at the bottom of the plant’s old reactor head to see if more nozzles were leaking than they originally realized.

The boric acid found on the bottom of the reactor head could have leaked down its side from nozzles above the head that corroded and left a football-sized hole in the carbon steel.

But tests to find out where the acid originated were inconclusive, said Bob Schrauder, vice president of support services for FirstEnergy, the parent company of Davis-Besse.

The boric acid was discussed yesterday at a public hearing between the company and the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, where the plant updated the agency on its restarting. The plant has been shut down since February.

Also yesterday, the NRC said it added two items to the list of requirements Davis-Besse must meet before it restarts. The agency wants to review the plant’s radiation protection program after six workers were allowed to leave the plant with radioactive particles on them. Two workers inhaled "relatively high" doses of radiation, the NRC found.

The agency also said it plans to review the containment sump system. Christine Lipa, who is on the NRC panel overseeing Davis-Besse’s restart, said the agency will look at the system’s past performance because it is an important safety device.

NRC panel head Jack Grobe said two of the agency’s inspections are almost done; three others cannot be completed because Davis-Besse has more work to do.

In an evening public meeting at Oak Harbor High School, some residents complained about the relationship between the NRC and Davis-Besse.

"Over the past several months, FirstEnergy has continued to conduct its affairs as it always has and the NRC has passively watched it occur," Howard Whitcomb, an Oak Harbor lawyer, said. "Unfortunately, it is obvious that the NRC has accepted, even embraced, FirstEnergy’s methods of doing business without reservation."

David Lochbaum, a Washington nuclear safety engineer, said many in the Oak Harbor community have lost faith - not only in Davis-Besse, but in the NRC to regulate it.

Donna Lueke, of Marblehead, Ohio, said some of the problems that plagued FirstEnergy in identifying problems at Davis-Besse also might be affecting the NRC. "You’ve found one of the problems with [FirstEnergy] was its corporate culture," she said. "I submit that the root cause of the NRC investigating Davis-Besse is the same. You spend so much time dealing with the licensees and the staff. You only connect with the public when it relates to crisis situations."

NRC members said they felt uncomfortable being on stage and apart from the audience. Tim Dussell, of Fostoria, used those comments to explain residents’ feelings. "You feel uncomfortable sitting in front of us," he said. "I feel uncomfortable sitting in front of Davis-Besse every day. I’m not just uncomfortable, I’m downright scared. That’s how we feel."

- KELLY LECKER and CLYDE HUGHES


More articles on this subject »
Facility faulted for radiation exposure 10/17/2002
Acid stains discovered on bottom of reactor 10/13/2002
NRC officials admit own failure with Davis-Besse plant 10/10/2002
Customers won't face rate boosts for repairs 10/08/2002
Davis-Besse restart costs soar 10/08/2002

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