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Thursday
Jun072012

Davis-Besse kept from re-starting due to reactor coolant system leak

Bathtub Curve for Nuclear Accidents provided by David Lochbaum, Union of Concerned ScientistsThe long-troubled Davis-Besse atomic reactor in Oak Harbor, Ohio on the Lake Erie shoreline near Toledo was prevented from re-starting after a re-fueling outage because of a "pinhole leak" in the reactor cooling system at a rate of 1 gallon of water per ten minutes. FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC) issued an "event notification," now posted at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) website. The Cleveland Plain Dealer has reported on this incident, as has BloombergBusiness Week, and the Toledo Blade.

This latest corrosion incident must now be added to a very long list of Davis-Besse woes dating back more than 35 years, from perhaps more near-misses with disaster than any other single U.S. reactor, to a recently revealed cracked concrete containment building. FENOC blames the cracking on the Blizzard of 1978, a claim critics mock as a "Snow Job."

Beyond Nuclear, in coalition with Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Green Party of Ohio, has officially intervened before the NRC Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board to block FENOC's application for a 20 year license extension. The environmental coalition is represented by Toledo attorney Terry Lodge.

Davis-Besse is deep into its "break down phase" for increased risk of disaster. In fact, it has already suffered the most infamous "break down phase" accident yet in U.S. history -- the 2002 Hole-in-the-Head Fiasco, where its reactor lid was almost entirely eaten through by boric acid corrosion due to leakage from the core. (See the "Bathtub Curve," so named for its shape, above left.) This risked a Loss of Coolant Accident and meltdown. At the 2006 environmental conference commemorating 20 years since the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe began in Kiev, a Ukrainian nuclear whistleblower cautioned that it's not just Russian reactor designs we have to worry about -- he pointed to Davis-Besse as a case in point.