Work Starts On Cutting Into Nuclear Plant

OAK HARBOR, Ohio (AP) - Workers have started cutting into the walls of the Davis-Besse nuclear plant's containment building to replace its damaged reactor head.

They will make a hole 20 feet wide to take out the old reactor head and move in the replacement cover from a nuclear complex in Midland, Mich., said Richard Wilkins, a FirstEnergy Corp. spokesman.

The cutting began Monday night and will take about 10 days. It will take about a month to complete the project.

Workers are using a high-pressure water spray to cut a hole in the concrete walls that protect the nuclear reactor. A fine stream of water at extremely high pressure -- about 20,000 pounds per square inch -- will chip away mortar from the side of the containment building.

FirstEnergy is spending an estimated $55 million to $75 million to replace the reactor lid that was damaged by leaking acid.

The plant has been shut down since February when inspectors discovered that boric acid had nearly eaten through a steel cap that covers the reactor vessel.

It was the most extensive corrosion found on a U.S. nuclear reactor and led to a nationwide review of all 69 similar plants. Akron-based FirstEnergy plans to reopen the plant at the end of the year.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)