U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D., Cleveland) asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Monday to hold a public hearing on the cracks in the concrete containment building at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant 10 miles west of Port Clinton.
In a letter to the chairman of the agency, Mr. Kucinich disputed FirstEnergy’s description of the cracks as “hairline” and as limited to decorative concrete. He said the cracks appear to follow the line of the reinforcing bar, are clearly visible, and run for 30 feet.
He said the cracks could be laid to “concrete carbonation,” the seepage of carbon dioxide through concrete allowing for the corrosion of steel reinforcing bars.
The cracking “seems to indicate a widespread problem that will undermine the structural integrity of the shield building,” Mr. Kucinich wrote to Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the agency.
Mr. Kucinich asked the agency to conduct a public hearing on the cracks before FirstEnergy is allowed to power up the reactor.
A FirstEnergy spokesman said the company has a “root cause team” looking at the problem but that carbonation appears not to be an issue.
“Our testing on a number of concrete samples showed no carbonation on any of the crack surfaces of those that we tested, and [from] our inspections of the rebar, the rebar looks very good and healthy. There was no corrosion of the re-bar,” said spokesman Jennifer Young.
“[Mr. Kucinich’s] letter suggested we weren’t telling the full story. I don’t believe that to be the case. The NRC understands everything we’ve looked at,” Ms. Young said.
She said there are no plans for a hearing and that FirstEnergy continues to work on the crack issue as part of its regular outage. FirstEnergy is shooting for restarting the plant around the end of the month.
The cracks were discovered after a hole was cut in the outer shield building to install a new reactor head. FirstEnergy has submitted to the NRC its finding that the cracks are not a safety hazard and is following up by submitting technical reports to the commission in response to its questions about the matter.
Mr. Kucinich said the reactor is 76 miles upwind of his constituency in the current 10th Congressional District.
It would be in the middle of his district starting after 2012 under a redistricting plan that was approved by the Ohio General Assembly following the 2010 decennial census.
If that map remains in effect, Mr. Kucinich probably would compete in the 2012 Democratic primary with U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) to represent a district that follows the Lake Erie shoreline from Toledo to Cleveland.
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