An international coalition of environmental groups, including U.S.-based Beyond Nuclear and Canada-based Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, has long sought the shutdown of the Davis-Besse atomic reactor, located on the Great Lakes shore.
FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC) ran its Davis-Besse atomic reactor to the breaking point in 2002. The Hole-in-the-Head fiasco -- a nearly complete breach of the reactor vessel closure head, or lid -- was the most infamous near-miss to a major reactor accident in the U.S. since the Three Mile Island meltdown in 1979.
Now it has been revealed that Davis-Besse has a hole in its Shield Building wall -- an essential component of the radiological containment structures -- that extends up to 12 inches through its 30-inch width, a full 40% way through. Davis-Besse has operated for over two years, at full power, with this potentially fatal flaw in its Shield Building wall.
The gap or air space was discovered last Thursday, and publicly revealed Friday, during the current Davis-Besse steam generator replacement project, which has breached Davis-Besse's Shield Building for an unprecedented fourth time. The previous three breaches include the pre-operational Initial Construction Opening in the 1970s; the 2002-2004 reactor lid replacement project; and the 2011 reactor lid replacement project. Each breach risks further damaging the Shield Building, where severe cracking was discovered in late 2011. In September 2013, FENOC admitted that the severe cracking is growing worse over time.
The hole in the containment wall begs serious questions about NRC incompetence and/or collusion. The hole is located in the area of the construction opening re-sealed in a great big hurry by FENOC, with NRC's blessing, after the reactor lid replacement in late 2011. Beyond Nuclear and environmental coalition allies officially protested the rush to re-start, as the re-sealing literally covered up the primary evidence of severe cracking under feet of concrete.
FENOC never checked the replacement wall -- as with ultra-sonic, X-ray, or other acoustic techniques -- to make sure it was solid. NRC did not require such tests.
How NRC allowed FENOC to do such a bad concrete pour in 2011, leaving behind such a large gap in the Shield Building wall, boggles the mind. NRC claimed to have had its full resources, in terms of inspectors and oversight, in place at the Davis-Besse site, due to the severe containment cracking in late 2011.
Such obvious incompetence, and perhaps even collusion, by NRC raises very serious concerns about public health, safety, and environmental protection. After all, the Japanese Parliament concluded in 2012 that the actual root cause of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe was not the earthquake and tsunami, but rather the collusion between the nuclear utility, the supposed safety regulator, and elected officials, which left the Fukushima Daiichi site so vulnerable to the natural disaster.
NRC Region III Staff are holding a Webinar on Davis-Besse's current steam generator replacement project on Thursday, Feb. 20th, from 6 to 7 PM Eastern. The Webinar was scheduled before revelation of the hole in the containment wall. Please pre-register and attend the Webinar. Beyond Nuclear and Don't Waste MI have generated a series of sample questions you can put to NRC during the Webinar.
Beyond Nuclear helps lead environmental coalition efforts challenging both the steam generator replacements, as well as FENOC's application for a 20-year (2017-2037) license extension at Davis-Besse. Terry Lodge, Toledo-based attorney, serves as legal counsel for the environmental coalition in both NRC proceedings.
Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer, Fairewinds Associates, Inc., serves as expert witness for the coalition in the "experimental" steam generator replacement intervention. Gundersen serves as expert witness for Friends of the Earth on the botched San Onofre 2 & 3 steam generator replacements, which has led to the permanent shutdown of those two reactors -- a multi-billion dollar boondoggle. Gundersen was also instrumental in outing the truth on the fatal cracking in Crystal River, FL's concrete containment, also caused by a botched steam generator replacement, another multi-billion dollar boondoggle. Gundersen has alleged that Davis-Besse's steam generator replacement has taken the same shortcuts on safety, made all the worse by its Shield Building's already very questionable, and worsening, structural integrity.
The coalition launched the challenge against the steam generator replacement in May, 2013, and defended its challenge in June and July -- twice in one month! -- 2013. The NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) which heard the intervention quickly dismissed it, without addressing the merits, effectively green-lighting Davis-Besse's shortcuts on safety. Beyond Nuclear has posted the entire docket of the steam generator intervention on its website.
Beyond Nuclear has filed a Freedom of Information Act Request on the gap in the Davis-Besse Shield Building wall.
NRC posted an Event Notification Report on Feb. 18, and a Preliminary Notification of Occurrence (PNO) on Feb. 19.
WKSU has reported on this story, quoting an NRC official as saying: “It may be a bit premature to speculate on where this ends up with regard to license renewal, but suffice it to say that we are evaluating not only the number of times the shield building has been cut, but also the issues that have arisen each time the shield building was cut.”