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Friday, October 14, 2011

Davis-Besse: Crack in containment building

A 30 foot long, hairline crack has been discovered by workers at Davis-Besse while preparations are underway to replace the reactor vessel head.

According to reports such as this one, the outermost shell is physically separate from the actual, steel vapor containment and thus this condition is not directly comparable to the long-standing shutdown at Crystal River, where failure to hire an experienced contractor and use of a newly developed process for cutting the containment resulted in delamination of the concrete containment building. There is no gap at Crystal River. As such this crack is not likely to be nearly as serious a failure to repair as that at Crystal River is proving.

According to the local Fremont News Messenger (Fremont, Ohio, near Oak Harbor where Davis-Besse is located) an NRC spokesperson stated that the plant cannot restart unless this situation is resolved. Which is exactly what one would expect.

FirstEnergy stock fell after the announcement; however, various recommendations I've seen in the last hour range from hold (Jefferies via StreetInsider.com) to buy (Deutsche Bank.) Deutsche Bank has a target price of $49 for FirstEnergy which was $43.76 at close (NYSE) on Thursday.

This writer has yet to see any determination of whether this crack existed prior to cutting the opening for passage of the reactor vessel heads (new one in, old one out) or whether it has been caused by the operation. What is clear however is that the plant is totally safe and that a crack in the containment outer shell at this moment is irrelevant considering the large opening deliberately cut into the building to allow the work to proceed. It is repair of the crack and any certification or testing after reactor vessel head replacement is completed which stands now in question.

3:00 PM Eastern Friday October 14, 2011

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