NRC Finds Violations At Davis-Besse Plant

JOHN SEEWER, Associated Press Writer

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - Inspectors found violations of 10 federal regulations at a nuclear plant where acid nearly ate through a 6-inch-thick steel reactor cap, according to a report released Thursday.

The plant's operator, FirstEnergy Corp., failed to take action to correct multiple safety concerns and violated rules for operating the reactor, the report said.

During a maintenance shutdown at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant near Toledo, investigators in March found the boric acid leak.

It was the most extensive corrosion ever found on a U.S. nuclear reactor and led to a nationwide review of all 69 similar plants. A second, smaller hole was found later at Davis-Besse.

The report from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors termed the violations as more than minor but did not address the significance of the violations.

FirstEnergy spokesman Richard Wilkins said Thursday the findings were consistent with the company's internal investigations.

"We weren't really surprised by anything in that report," he said.

The company already has fixed some of the problems cited, he said.

The NRC has been investigating the corrosion since March and has said the leak should have been spotted as many as four years ago. The agency expects to determine this fall whether to fine the plant's operators. The agency bases the amount of fines on the severity of the violations, the company's record, how the plant identified the problems and whether it corrected them quickly.

Wilkins said the company expects to be fined.

Akron-based FirstEnergy is paying about $200 million to repair the plant, install a new lid and buy replacement power until it is restarted.

The reactor, about 20 miles east of Toledo, has been shut down since Feb. 16.

Workers have removed the damaged reactor head and replaced it.

The company wants to restart the plant by the end of the year, but regulators have given no indication when they will allow it to operate again.

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