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First Energy patches Beaver Valley nuclear reactor

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

FirstEnergy is repairing a “flaw” on one of its Beaver Valley nuclear reactors that inspectors discovered last week.

Welding material around a tube at the top of the 904-megawatt Unit No. 2 reactor appeared to be weakened, prompting FirstEnergy to patch it with a “weld overlay,” according to Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan.

The flaw was not a safety threat by itself, Sheehan said. But if left alone, it could have cracked and allowed water to leak from the reactor.

“It's not a crack,” Sheehan said. “It's a flaw that had to be addressed or it could turn into a crack.”

At no time was the safety of the public or plant workers threatened, said Sheehan and FirstEnergy spokeswoman Jennifer Young.

FirstEnergy reported the problem to the NRC on Thursday.

The “microscopic” flaw, Young said, was discovered during a routine refueling outage that began April 19. During these outages, plant operators examine the facility for potential problems. The flaw was the only concern inspectors had, Young said.

The reactor's vessel head dates to the year it was built in 1977 and is scheduled to be replaced in 2017, Young said.

Refueling outages happen every 18 months and the inspections last several weeks to a month, Young said. She would not say when Unit No. 2 would run again, because of competitive reasons.

Chris Fleisher is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7854 or cfleisher@tribweb.com.

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