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Published: Friday, 6/20/2003

FirstEnergy outlines plan for Davis-Besse pump fix


ROCKVILLE, Md. - Two key pumps at the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station can be fixed in time for a planned August restart of the facility, FirstEnergy officials told the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) yesterday.

“It's very simple, and very straightforward, and we believe it's the best solution to the problem,” Gary Leidich, FirstEnergy's executive vice president, said.

He spoke at an unusual session at NRC headquarters here, in which FirstEnergy engineers briefed commission staff on modifications planned for Davis-Besse's so-called high-pressure injection (HPI) pumps.

A utility normally would review such modification plans with an NRC regional office - which in Davis-Besse's case is located near Chicago. But NRC headquarters staff wanted to eyeball the plans because Davis-Besse is under special commission supervision after the March, 2002, hole-in-the-reactor-vessel head incident.

It involved a leak of corrosive water overlooked for years despite numerous warning flags. The plant has been closed since February, 2002, at a cost to FirstEnergy of about $15 million a month.

During the shutdown, FirstEnergy realized that Davis-Besse's two HPIs might not work properly. The 600-horsepower pumps are part of a key safety system that injects cooling water into the reactor to prevent a meltdown after a serious accident.

Jim Powers, director of engineering at Davis-Besse, told NRC the pumps are unique among the 103 nuclear power plants in the country. They use so-called hydrostatic bearings that could be damaged by accident debris sucked into pumps.

Bob Coward of MPR Associates, hired by FirstEnergy for the pump modification, said the solution will involve installing an internal filter to catch debris, and making an internal plumbing change.

He described extensive MPR tests, simulations, and research showing that the modification will work. Further studies will be done before the actual modifications, which would be completed in July.

NRC engineers and management officials indicated that the planned modifications seemed reasonable, but said they would closely monitor the test results and modifications.

For earlier stories on Davis-Besse, go to www.toledoblade.com/davisbesse.

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