FirstEnergy plan expected to slow deterioration at Davis-Besse

The latest head was installed on top of the Davis-Besse reactor in 2004. It came from a mothballed nuclear plant in Midland, Mich., where it had sat for 25 years without being used because that power station was never completed. The thought was that it would not begin to show symptoms of deterioration for 15 or 20 years.

OAK HARBOR — “Three degrees might not sound like much. But according to FirstEnergy Corp., a three-degree reduction in Davis-Besse’s operating temperature will provide enough safety over the next two years to ensure there is no additional cracking of the steel nozzles that penetrate the reactor’s interim head.

Now it’s up to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to decide whether it agrees with the utility’s analysis of what caused 24 of the massive steel device’s 69 nozzles to either develop flaws or full-blown cracks…

FirstEnergy knew Davis-Besse had susceptible material. That plant and others have many components — including reactor-head nozzles — made of Alloy 600, a metal that has come under scrutiny nationwide because it is not nearly as robust and corrosion-resistant as what scientists in the 1960s thought. Alloy 600 is now being replaced by the more durable Alloy 690, a much stronger alloy.

And the utility knew Davis-Besse generates heat — a lot of it.

Davis-Besse has been known as the nation’s hottest-operating nuclear plant since at least June of 2002, when experts from the California-based Electric Power Research Institute told members of the NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards that it had been operating for some time at an average temperature of 605 degrees, 20 degrees hotter than the industry average.”

— Tom Henry, Toledo Blade

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