FirstEnergy plans major overhaul of Beaver Valley nuclear power plant

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FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co. plans to replace the steam generator and reactor vessel head at its Beaver Valley Unit 2 nuclear reactor in 2017, according to Paul Harden, company senior vice president in charge of fleet engineering.

Eric Larson, FirstEnergy vice president at Beaver Valley, said the project costs will be "several hundred million dollars."

The major component replacements at Beaver Valley were discussed Tuesday at an informational meeting of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Moon, where FirstEnergy executives presented performance reviews and answered questions about its Beaver Valley reactors in Shippingport, Beaver County, its Davis-Besse nuclear plant near Toledo, Ohio, and its Perry power plant in Perry, Ohio.

Mr. Harden said the company will also begin a major project to replace the two steam generators at its Davis-Besse plant in February, during a longer-than-normal power outage to refuel the plant. Generator parts, made by Babcock & Wilcox of Canada, will begin arriving at the Davis-Besse site next month.

The three steam generators and reactor head scheduled for replacement at Beaver Valley Unit 2 are original power plant equipment, said Jennifer Young, a FirstEnergy spokeswoman. All three of those steam generators and the reactor head are being fabricated by Equipos Nucleares S.A., known as Ensa, in Spain.

"The project is important for us and for the future of the plant," said Pete Sena, FirstEnergy's president and chief nuclear officer.

Ms. Young said replacement of steam generators and reactor heads is common at pressurized water reactors to ensure long-term plant safety. Similar generator and reactor head replacement and maintenance was performed on Beaver Valley Unit 1 reactor in 2006.

She said the reactor head sits on top of and covers the reactor vessel, where the nuclear reaction takes place. The superheated, pressurized water created by the nuclear reaction is pumped into generators that convert the water to steam that turns turbines generating electricity.

She said the work will be scheduled during an extended shutdown for fuel replacement, but declined to indicate how long the reactor would be shut down, "because of competitive reasons."

Also discussed were seismic risk testing programs at each nuclear facility; dry spent nuclear fuel storage, just beginning at Perry and taking place at Beaver Valley next year; flooding evaluations done as part of the response of the industry and NRC to the tsunami-caused Fukushima nuclear disaster and leak in Japan in 2011; emergency and terrorist preparedness programs; and an extensive fire protection program that has cost FirstEnergy $35 million at Beaver Valley.

The original cost estimate for the fire protection program was between $2 million and $5 million.

Eric J. Leeds, NRC Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation director, said the National Fire Protection Association "805 program" provides big safety benefits, but must be made more efficient. He asked FirstEnergy executives to work with the commission to do that and reduce costs.

Both Beaver Valley units have been granted 20-year license extensions. The extension for Unit 1 runs until 2036, for Unit 2 until 2047. Together the pressurized water reactors produce more than 1,800 megawatts of power.

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Don Hopey: or 412-263-1983. First Published September 24, 2013 4:45 AM


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