NRC issues formal safety report on Davis-Besse license renewal

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has published its 800-plus page safety evaluation report (SER) on the FirstEnergy (NYSE:FE) request to extend its operating license for the Davis-Besse nuclear plant in Ohio by 20 years.

The FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co. (FENOC) submitted its license renewal request in August 2010. NRC is not expected to rule on the request until the commission fully complies with a federal court order on the so-called “Waste Confidence Rule” about long-term storage of spent fuel on-site at nuclear plants.

Davis-Besse is a roughly 900-MW pressurized water reactor (PWR) located near Lake Erie in Oak Harbor, Ohio.

In a Sept. 3 letter to FirstEnergy, the NRC said it had completed the SER for the license renewal application. The current Davis-Besse operating license is scheduled to expire in April 2017.

The license renewal process consists of two concurrent reviews, a technical review of safety issues, and an environmental review.

The SER has included various “open items” to be resolved on issues such as management of shield building cracks during the period of extended operation.

In October 2011, during hydro-demolition of the concrete shield building in order to perform a scheduled reactor head replacement, cracks were identified in the containment shield building. While investigating the extent of the cracking, additional cracks were identified around the shield building, NRC said in the SER.

Davis-Besse has had its share of difficulty.

On March 5, 2002, maintenance workers discovered that corrosion had eaten a football-sized hole into the reactor vessel head. Although the corrosion did not lead to an accident, this was considered to be a serious nuclear safety incident, according to an NRC fact sheet.

The NRC kept Davis-Besse shut down until March 2004, when the agency was convinced FirstEnergy had performed necessary safety changes. The NRC imposed its largest fine ever — more than $5m — against FirstEnergy for the actions that led to the corrosion. The company paid an additional $28m in fines under a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice. The NRC closely monitored FENOC’s response and concluded in September 2009 that FENOC met the conditions of the 2004 order.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.