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From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: misc.rural
Subject: Re: About renewable energy
Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2006 05:03:33 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Mon, 24 Apr 2006 23:54:36 GMT, wmbjk <>

>The conflict between safety and profit is what led to the Davis-Besse

No, but not a bad guess.

>The quote below is from

This is an example of why one has to be careful of the Wikipedia.

>"In March 2002, after the government had allowed a delay in safety
>inspections past a December 31, 2001 deadline,

Hmm, 3 months added to an arbitrary deadline.  Heaven forbid.

>it was discovered that
>boric acid had eaten almost all the way through the top of a 6½-inch
>thick reactor pressure vessel.

Actually there were penetrations of the head.  Not "almost".  That
splintered sentence means to imply that the 3 month extension had
anything to do with the problem.  It didn't.  The water quality
problem at DB that led to the corrosion was a life-of-the-plant thing.
The boric didn't just 'eat through the head' like some supercharged
nitric acid.  The corrosive damage occurred over years.  DB's was
simply the worst.

>A breach might have partially flooded
>the reactor's containment building with radioactive water

* yawn *   The containment building is designed for just that
occurrence.  Partial flooding is an anticipated event.  I should note
that at TMI, the flooded "safety equipment" (not really, just some
pressure and water level transmitters) remained functional for months.
Not hard to figure out why - it was designed that way.

> and damaged
>safety equipment, possibly causing fuel damage. The reactor was shut
>down for two years, during which time further design flaws were
>discovered in the plant that increased the likelihood of a fuel damage
>incident. It is possible for fuel damage to progress to an accident
>that might allow the release of radioactive elements.

And well, ya know, like, maybe the sky could fall and you know, people
could be killed and well, that would be bad.

Coulda, shoulda, woulda.

Fuel damage is an anticipated event which is why the reactor and the
containment are designed to contain it.  Given what TMI taught us,
only the most far-out loons still talk of a china syndrome-like event.
Just won't and can't happen.

Simply put, the TMI incident was the worst core melt accident that has
any credibility.  The fuel was left uncooled for >24 hours, more than
enough time to reach an equilibrium temperature and do whatever it is
it was going to do.  What it actually did was partially melt and the
melted fuel ran down until it contacted water still in the reactor
(nowhere for it to go) and quenched just like any other molten
material does.

The result was, when we lowered the video camera into the vessel, we
saw a rubble bed of shattered uranium oxide ceramic rubble - quite
like a pile of gravel.  Once the rubble was removed, the solid melt
removed with abrasive saws and the inner wall of the reactor examined,
we found that there was no damage at all to the reactor, much less the

>The incident was
>ranked fifth most dangerous by the NRC. Repairs and upgrades cost $600
>million, and the Davis-Besse reactor was restarted in March of 2004.

Those NRC guys are so cute, what with their meaningless "top ten" list
and all.

>On January 20, 2006, the owner of Davis-Besse, FirstEnergy Corporation
>of Akron, OH, acknowledged a cover-up of serious safety violations by
>former workers, and entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with
>the US Department of Justice in lieu of federal criminal prosecution.
>The deferred prosecution agreement relates to the March 2002 incident
>(see above). In the agreement, the company agreed to pay fines of
>$23.7 million, with an additional $4.3 million to be contributed to
>various groups, including the National Park Service, US Fish and
>Wildlife Service, Habitat for Humanity, and the University of Toledo
>as well as to pay some costs related to the federal investigation.

When there's money in the trough, all the hogs come squealing, don't

>addition, two former employees and one former contractor were indicted
>for purposely deceiving NRC inspectors in multiple documents and one
>video-tape, over several years, hiding evidence that the reactor
>pressure vessel was being seriously weakened by the acid. The maximum
>penalty for the three is 25 years in prison. The indictment mentions
>that other employees also provided false information to inspectors,
>but does not name them."

Well, let's talk about this a little.  The "coverups" (mostly grossly
incompetent management, but that's another story) go back 20+ years.
FirstEnergy had nothing to do with that.  They inherited the mess when
they bought out the old company.  FirstEnergy is doing its best to
straighten out what is arguably the worst nuclear plant in the world.

DB has been a nuclear cluster-f*ck since they day they broke ground.
An unholy combination of typical Ohio political corruption,
mob-influenced union corruption, AE incompetence and mis-management
and grossly incompetent on-site management has caused DB to top the
bad plant hit parade for decades.

While it got all the media attention, the reactor head corrosion
problem was actually a rather minor one, especially compared to
others.  The worst thing that could have happened from this corrosion
is that a hole could have opened up in the head, leading to a leak
that the safety system would have easily handled.  Much worse things
have happened there.

The first major one was practically a premonition of TMI.  Same crappy
condenser design, same bad PORV design, same sequence-of-events with a
stuck PORV, reactor coolant loop blowdown and flooding of the
containment.  Only sheer luck that let an operator notice an abnormal
reading on an instrument located on the BACK of the main control board
let them avoid a TMI incident.  We came very close to referring to a
nuclear fuel melt incident as a "Davis-Besse" instead of a "TMI".  In
fact, had the DB staff published the incident in a timely manner to
the user group as they were supposed to, TMI would not have happened,
as the TMI operators would have been forewarned what to look for.

The feedwater pump trip was another incident, though it pales compared
to the pre-TMI one.  That event never put the reactor system in any
real jeopardy, despite the NRC bleating to the contrary.  That was
still a major operational screw-up.

I like to cite DB in a slightly different light than the media and
so-called outside experts.  To me, DB proves just how inherently good
the plant design is, that the plant could withstand decades of
incompetent abuse and still continue to run.  The DB operators of the
past really could break an iron wedge with their bare hands and yet
they never managed to break the plant very badly.

DB is number one on my hit parade of the most poorly run plants in
this country. (Notice that I didn't say "worst plant", for that would
have implied something wrong with the physical plant itself.)  Oyster
Creek in NJ is number 2.  That both plants have been plagued with
mobbed-up union thuggery is no coincidence.

Little known fact:  TMI-2, the one that melted, was supposed to be
Oyster Creek-2.  Met-Ed, the owner at the time, yanked the project
from NJ and brought it to the Three Mile Island (the land mass and not
the plant) just as construction got under way because of the excessive
union and state government corruption.  Note the excessive part.
Met-Ed was prepared for and experienced in dealing with
run-of-the-mill corruption but the cost of the shakedown got too high
for even them.

This hasty move is probably what lit the fuse for what became the
accident.  TMI-2 was the bastard step-child of TMI-1.  At the time of
the accident, TMI-1 was one of the BEST running plants in the country.

PS:  You'll notice my use of the term "we" above.  That's because the
nuclear engineering company that I owned provided services to TMI for
almost 4 years after the accident.  I personally made one of the early
entries into the Unit 2 reactor and was there (on the outside,
unfortunately) when the cameras went into the reactor.  Other personal
accomplishments include the re-design, calibration and installation of
TMI-1's RegGuide 1.97 post-accident radiation monitoring system and
the upgrade of their regular radiation monitoring system.  I also lead
the team that re-qualified the plant's diesel generator system
immediately prior to Unit 1's restart.

My company also provided some radiation monitoring-related services to
Davis-Besse but not for long.  I very quickly saw the writing on the
wall and pulled out.

I'll be happy to answer any questions that I can about the two plants
or nuclear power in general.  Or, I suppose, you COULD go back to the
Wiki for third-hand rumors....


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