Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Is Safe, NRC And Ohio Operators Insist
PORT CLINTON, Ohio (AP) — Federal regulators along with the operators of nuclear plant in Ohio want to assure critics that it's safe to run a reactor despite the discovery of cracks in its concrete shell.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission plans to reveal more details about its investigation at the plant near Toledo and explain why it allowed it to reopen last month.
The Davis-Besse nuclear plant began producing electricity in early December, less than two months after the first cracks were found.
The plant along Lake Erie was shut down for maintenance in October when crews discovered a 30-foot hairline crack in the outer concrete wall that's designed to protect the reactor from anything that might hit it from outside, such as storm debris or an airplane.
More cracks were found soon after near the bottom of the 224-foot tall shield structure, leading to closer inspections that found cracks close to the top of the wall.
The commission signed off on restarting the plant after its owner, FirstEnergy Corp., assured it that the cracks don't pose a threat. Regulators said they've done their own checks and reviewed testing already completed by the plant operator.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat who has been a longtime opponent of the plant and its owner, criticized the NRC's decision, saying that it's still unknown what caused the cracks or whether it's a bigger problem.
The commission has given Akron-based FirstEnergy until the end of February to find out what caused the cracks.
At full power, the plant makes enough electricity for around 750,000 customers, primarily in Ohio. The company's electric system has 4.5 million customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Davis-Besse was shut down this fall to replace an 82-ton reactor head, a steel lid that sits atop the reactor vessel.
FirstEnergy said the new reactor head is made of better material than the former reactor lid that had cracks in its nozzles. The plant was shut down for four months in 2010 for repairs to those cracks that the NRC said were discovered before they could do damage.
The plant also was shut down from 2002 to 2004 because of an acid leak in a different reactor head.
Regulators fined FirstEnergy $5.45 million and the company agreed to $28 million in civil penalties following what the NRC said was the most extensive corrosion found at a U.S. nuclear reactor. The NRC said FirstEnergy misled the agency by providing incomplete and inaccurate information about the acid leak.
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