Crack at Davis-Besse nuclear plant spurs nuclear opponents

TOLEDO, Ohio - A 30-foot hairline crack discovered in concrete at an Ohio nuclear plant has prompted anti-nuclear activists to step up their opposition to renewing the plant's license.

Contractors replacing a cracked reactor head at FirstEnergy's Davis-Besse plant outside Toledo recently discovered a small crack in thick concrete on the outside of the reactor's containment building.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a report Friday saying the crack is in "non-structural, architectural" concrete and poses no "immediate safety concern," The Blade newspaper of Toledo reported. But if further investigation reveals any challenges to the design function of the building, they would have to be resolved before the plant restarts, the report said.

Jennifer Young, a FirstEnergy spokeswoman, said further investigation is under way.

But the crack has already prompted activists to ask the Toledo City Council to approve a resolution opposing the FirstEnergy plant's license renewal, The Blade has also reported.

Anita Ross, a co-chair of the Ohio Green Party and a city council candidate, said the group plans to present similar resolutions to leaders of other cities around Lake Erie.

"There's a lot of unanswered questions that should be addressed before there is even any consideration to allow that plant to restart," said lawyer Terry Lodge, who is leading a challenge to FirstEnergy's license renewal application.

Davis-Besse's license is set to expire in 2017, and FirstEnergy has an application pending before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend the operating license until 2037.

Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. shut down the plant almost two weeks ago so the new 82-ton reactor head could be installed. The building's concrete shell 2 1/2 feet thick is meant to protect the reactor from tornado debris, an aircraft of anything else that might hit it from outside.

City Councilman Steven Steel said last week that although he had not yet read the proposed resolution, "in principle I'm in agreement" with shutting down Davis-Besse.

Steel, who said there are frightening safety concerns about the plant, cited previous problems including the near-failure of the plant's reactor head in 2002 and the more recent breakdown of reactor nozzles that prompted the installation of a second replacement head.

"We keep coming closer and closer and closer to catastrophe," Steel said.

Davis-Besse has been shut down since Oct. 1 for the reactor head replacement.

Steel said he has contacted some city council members for informal discussion about the draft resolution.

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