Coal, Nuclear, Reactors

FENOC submits Davis-Besse restart report to NRC

Nov. 25, 2003 — FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC) officials have submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) a comprehensive restart report, stating that the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station “has completed major actions necessary to ensure safe and reliable return to service.”

The Nov. 24 report is the initial step in obtaining NRC approval for restart of Davis-Besse, following an extended outage during which personnel replaced the damaged reactor pressure vessel head, inspected and addressed other equipment issues and revamped programs and procedures.

Additionally, FENOC senior management restructured the organization, and put in place a number of initiatives to improve the plant’s safety culture.

“Submitting this report is a major milestone,” said FENOC President and Chief Nuclear Officer Gary Leidich. “Both FENOC and the NRC identified a list of issues that needed to be addressed before restarting the plant. This report documents how we resolved those issues and demonstrates that, subject to completion of a few activities, we are ready to return the unit to safe, reliable service.”

To provide a perspective on the scope of work achieved during the outage: Davis-Besse employees completed 7,700 work orders, 120 modifications to plant systems, 23,800 corrective actions, 15,000 surveillance tests, 2,200 preventative maintenance tasks and 2,700 procedure changes.

The return to service effort encompassed improvements in three broad areas–the plant, which included improving equipment and systems; processes, which covered programs and procedures used to operate the plant; and management and human performance, which entailed such areas as personnel development, safety culture, oversight and assessments.

Lew Myers, FENOC Chief Operating Officer, who oversaw much of the work at the plant, noted that the improvements included such projects as expanding the Containment Emergency Sump strainers from 50 square feet to 1200 square feet; installing a state-of-the-art leak monitoring system on the reactor bottom; refurbishing all three Containment Air Coolers; stripping and painting the dome of the Containment Vessel and modifying the two High Pressure Injection Pumps.

“Many of these projects added substantial safety margin to the plant,” Myers said. “For instance, we revamped the Containment Air Coolers, increased the sump strainers and added the leak monitoring system beyond current regulatory requirements.”

He also cited completion of the plant’s full pressure test of the reactor coolant system as another major achievement that proved the integrity of this vital system.

“During the test, the leak rate for this system–which contains 90,000 gallons of coolant–was .008 gallons per minute,” he said. “That’s well below the one-gallon-per-minute leak rate allowed under the plant’s technical specifications.”

Other restart efforts included revising the plant’s Boric Acid Corrosion Prevention Program, the Corrective Action Program, as well as the Radiation Protection and Quality Assurance Audit programs.

In the area of safety culture, Myers said employees have undergone numerous training sessions in such areas as lessons learned, implementing comprehensive assessments and surveys, and making improvements in identifying and reporting safety issues.

Additionally, management has strengthened the Corrective Action Program, created a new Employee Concerns Program and contracted for an independent safety culture evaluation at Davis-Besse, the results of which were used to craft the long-term safety culture improvement plan. Management created the position of Director of Organizational Development, to oversee the continuous improvement effort in this area.

To ensure continued improvements and sustained performance in nuclear safety and plant operations, management established a long-term Operational Improvement Plan. The plan covers such improvements as focused self- assessments, benchmarking and employing industry best practices, using FENOC common practices, improving standards, reducing backlog and implementing the Design Calculation Improvement Plan.

Management also initiated a short-term training and peer-checking plan to help Control Room operators make the transition from an extended outage to a restart and operational mode at Davis-Besse. The plan calls for intensive training on the site’s Control Room Simulator that will cover every vital phase of restarting and running the plant. It also entails assistance from industry peers, including Control Room operators from other sites, who will observe the start-up and advise Davis-Besse operators, as appropriate. The team will remain in place beyond restart.

“We’ve improved the plant and equipment, revamped our programs, restructured our organization and trained our people in how we will do business, going forward,” Leidich said. “Davis-Besse is well positioned to return to service.”

Remaining activities to be completed prior to restart include the monthly NRC 0350 public meeting on December 3, to discuss human performance and other issues; closeout and testing of remaining work items; increasing the pressure of the reactor coolant system; final NRC operational inspection; and an NRC public meeting at which FENOC will formally request authorization to restart the plant.