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Published: Saturday, 11/19/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Nuclear plant to close hole made for repairs

Davis-Besse plans to restart by month's end


OAK HARBOR, Ohio -- A 12-hour concrete pour is scheduled for Saturday at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant, closing a hole in the reactor's outer shield building cut last month for access to install a new reactor head, a FirstEnergy spokesman said Friday.

While declining to set a date when the utility plans to restart the plant, spokesman Jennifer Young said it remains on schedule to resume operation by the end of November, as forecast in a recent letter to FirstEnergy stockholders.

By then, Ms. Young said, FirstEnergy also expects to have closed its investigation into hairline cracks discovered in the shield building's reinforced concrete after the access hole was made.

FirstEnergy has submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission its finding that the cracks are not a safety hazard, she said, and now is following up by submitting technical reports to the commission in response to its questions about the matter.

"The cracks, as they are, do not impact the structural integrity of the building," Ms. Young said Friday. "There's plenty of margin in the building. It's a very, very robust building."

Viktoria Mytling, a spokesman at the NRC's regional office in Chicago, said that as matters stand, FirstEnergy is free to restart Davis-Besse when it considers the plant to be ready, since the regulatory agency has made no finding of any safety hazard there.

"If the plant does restart while our review isn't done, and we subsequently identify a safety issue, they are legally required to shut the plant down to resolve the safety issue," Ms. Mytling said. "If we are conducting a review and have a specific safety concern the company needs to address, but they tell us they will restart the plant before providing us with answers we need to make sure the plant will operate safely, we can and would order the plant to cease restart activities until they answer our questions."

The NRC could also order "compensatory actions" -- essentially, special conditions -- for a restart or continued operation if the agency were to declare a safety issue, Ms. Mytling said.

Ms. Young said FirstEnergy expects the "conversation" with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to be concluded before the restart.

After the shield building concrete is poured, the spokesman said, it will take several days to harden. Other maintenance that has been under way since Davis-Besse shut down Oct. 1 for the reactor-head replacement also needs to be finished before the plant's restart, she said.

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