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Davis-Besse: from Hole in the Head, to Hole in the Containment Wall

NRC file photo of NRC inspector visually examining severe cracking in Davis-Besse's Shield Building wall in Oct., 2011.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.

A very brief Event Notification was posted at NRC's website a full five days after the gap was discovered. 

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.