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Environment


Maze of tiny cracks found in cement walls at Davis-Besse
NRC calls situation safe.  Nuclear reactor not affected.
by WKSU's TIM RUDELL


Reporter
Tim Rudell
 
Davis-Besse's massive tower can be seen for miles. It is the image most associated with the nulcear power plant. But it is not the actual reactor housing
Courtesy of WKSU
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In The Region:

Crews working on one problem at Davis-Besse nuclear power plant have found another.  Hairline cracks are showing up in the concrete dome that protects the plant’s reactor building. WKSU’s Tim Rudell reports.

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Incidents

Since Davis-Besse came on line in the late 1970s it has had six “incidents.” That’s what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission calls issues that can potentially threaten public safety.  Two made the NRC’s list of the five most serious incidents in the country.  

Reactor Head

In recent years the reactor head has been the culprit.  Plant owner First Energy decided to replace it in 2002 after corrosion ate a football size hole most of the way through the original.  But, the replacement began failing.  So, crews are replacing that one. To do it, they need to cut through the 30-inch thick concrete walls of the building around the reactor. Todd Schneider of First Energy:“We use high pressure water, like a giant  pressure washer, but it actually cuts the concrete.  During this process we saw some what looked to be, what appeared to be small, very small, hairline fractures in the concrete.”

Cracks in a different place

The cracks are in the “shield building”.  Think of it as a huge flower pot sitting upside down over the structure that holds the reactor.  It’s meant to prevent damage from outside.  As it did in1998 when the Davis Besse site was hit by a tornado.   

Safety not an issue

VIktoria Mytling of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says investigating the cracks is an important matter, but this does not rise to the level of another “incident.” There is no immediate safety concern because the shield building is not the primary protection between radio activity and the public.  Also, the reactor is shut down.  So there is inherently no danger in that situation.”

Concrete engineering specialists are on site and answers about  the cracks and their significance, are likely in next 24-hours. 

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