Davis–Besse Nuclear Power Station

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Davis–Besse Nuclear Power Station
The Davis–Besse NPP (NRC image)
The Davis–Besse NPP (NRC image)
CountryUnited States
LocationCarroll Township, Ottawa County, near Oak Harbor, Ohio
Coordinates41°35′48″N 83°5′11″W / 41.59667°N 83.08639°W / 41.59667; -83.08639Coordinates: 41°35′48″N 83°5′11″W / 41.59667°N 83.08639°W / 41.59667; -83.08639
Construction beganSeptember 1, 1970
Commission dateJuly 31, 1978
Construction cost$2.221 billion (2007 USD)[1] ($2.72 billion in 2020 dollars[2])
Owner(s)Energy Harbor
Operator(s)Energy Harbor
Nuclear power station
Reactor typePWR
Reactor supplierBabcock & Wilcox
Cooling towers1 × Natural Draft
Cooling sourceLake Erie
Thermal capacity1 × 2817 MWth
Power generation
Units operational1 × 894 MW
Make and modelB&W RLP (DRYAMB)
Units cancelled2 × 910 MW
Nameplate capacity894 MW
Capacity factor100.57% (2017)
70.70% (lifetime)
Annual net output7876 GWh (2017)
External links
CommonsRelated media on Commons
Davis–Besse Nuclear Power Station's cooling tower in July 2015

Davis–Besse Nuclear Power Station is a 894 megawatt (MW), nuclear power plant, located northeast of Oak Harbor, Ohio in Ottawa County, Ohio. It has a single pressurized water reactor. Davis–Besse is operated by Energy Harbor.

Throughout its operation, Davis–Besse has been the site of several safety incidents that affected the plant's operation. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Davis–Besse has been the source of two of the top five most dangerous nuclear incidents in the United States since 1979.[3] The most severe occurring in March 2002, when maintenance workers discovered corrosion had eaten a football-sized hole into the reactor vessel head.[4][5] The NRC kept Davis–Besse shut down until March 2004, so that FirstEnergy was able to perform all the necessary maintenance for safe operations. The NRC imposed an over $5 million fine, its largest fine ever to a nuclear power plant, against FirstEnergy for the actions that led to the corrosion. The company paid an additional $28 million in fines under a settlement with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ).[4]

Davis–Besse was expected to close in 2020 as it is no longer profitable to run when competing against natural gas plants.[6] Plans were updated indicating possible shut down by May 31, 2020.[7] However, Ohio House Bill 6 was signed into law in July 2019 which added a fee to residents' utility bills that funded subsidies of $150 million per year to Davis–Besse and the Perry Nuclear Generating Station to keep both plants operational.[8][9][10] However, the bill was alleged to be part of the Ohio nuclear bribery scandal revealed by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) in July 2020.[11][10]

Location and history[edit]

The power station is located on the southwest shore of Lake Erie about 10 miles (16 km) north of Oak Harbor, Ohio and is on the north side of Highway 2 just east of Highway 19 on a 954-acre (386 ha) site in the Carroll Township. The plant only utilizes 221 acres (89 ha), with 733 acres (297 ha) devoted to the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. The entrance to the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area[12] is approximately 5 miles east of the power station. The official name according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration is the Davis–Besse Nuclear Generating Station. It is the 57th commercial power reactor to commence building in the United States of America (construction began on September 1, 1970) and the 50th to come on-line July 31, 1978.[13] The plant was originally jointly owned by Cleveland Electric Illuminating (CEI) and Toledo Edison (TE) and was named for former TE Chairman John K. Davis and former CEI Chairman Ralph M. Besse.

Unit One[edit]

The reactor head under inspection

Unit One is an 879 MWe pressurized water reactor supplied by Babcock & Wilcox. The reactor was shut down from 2002 until early 2004 for safety repairs and upgrades. In 2012 the reactor supplied 7101.700 GWh of electricity[14]

Units Two and Three[edit]

In 1973, two more reactors were also ordered from Babcock & Wilcox. However, construction on Units Two and Three never commenced, and these two units were officially canceled in 1981.[15]

Incident history[edit]

1977 first stuck-open pilot-operated relief valve[edit]

On September 24, 1977, the relief valve for the reactor pressurizer failed to close when the reactor, running at only 9% power, shut down because of a disruption in the feedwater system.[16]

1985 loss of feedwater event[edit]

On June 9, 1985, the main feedwater pumps, used to supply water to the reactor steam generators, shut down. A control room operator then attempted to start the auxiliary (emergency) feedwater pumps. These pumps both tripped on overspeed conditions because of operator error. This incident was originally classified an "NRC Unusual Event" (the lowest classification the NRC uses) but it was later determined that it should have been classified a "site area emergency".[17]

1998 tornado[edit]

On June 24, 1998 the station was struck by an F2 tornado.[18] The plant's switchyard was damaged and access to external power was disabled. The plant's reactor automatically shut down at 8:42 pm and an alert (the next to lowest of four levels of severity) was declared at 9:18 pm. The plant's emergency diesel generators powered critical facility safety systems until external power could be restored.[19][20]

2002 reactor head hole[edit]

Erosion of the 6-inch-thick (150 mm) carbon steel reactor head, caused by a persistent leak of borated water

In March 2002, plant staff discovered that the borated water that serves as the reactor coolant had leaked from cracked control rod drive mechanisms directly above the reactor and eaten through more than six inches[21] (150 mm) of the carbon steel reactor pressure vessel head over an area roughly the size of a football (see photo). This significant reactor head wastage on the exterior of the reactor vessel head left only 38 inch (9.5 mm) of stainless steel cladding holding back the high-pressure (~2155 psi, 14.6 MPa) reactor coolant. A breach most likely would have resulted in a massive loss-of-coolant accident[citation needed], in which reactor coolant would have jetted into the reactor's containment building and resulted in emergency safety procedures to protect from core damage or meltdown. Because of the location of the reactor head damage, such a jet of reactor coolant might have damaged adjacent control rod drive mechanisms, hampering or preventing reactor shut-down. As part of the system reviews following the accident, significant safety issues were identified with other critical plant components, including the following:

  1. the containment sump that allows the reactor coolant to be reclaimed and reinjected into the reactor;
  2. the high pressure injection pumps that would reinject such reclaimed reactor coolant;
  3. the emergency diesel generator system;
  4. the containment air coolers that would remove heat from the containment building;
  5. reactor coolant isolation valves; and
  6. the plant's electrical distribution system.[22]

The resulting corrective operational and system reviews and engineering changes took two years. Repairs and upgrades cost $600 million, and the Davis–Besse reactor was restarted in March 2004.[23] To replace the reactor vessel head, FirstEnergy purchased one from the mothballed Midland Nuclear Power Plant in Midland, Michigan.[24]

The NRC determined that this incident was the fifth-most dangerous nuclear incident in the United States since 1979,[3] and imposed its largest fine ever — more than $5 million — against FirstEnergy for the actions that led to the corrosion.[4]

Criminal prosecutions[edit]

In January 2006, First Energy, the owner of Davis–Besse, acknowledged a series of safety violations by former workers, and entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). The deferred prosecution agreement related to the March 2002 incident. The deferment granted by the NRC were based on letters from Davis–Besse engineers stating that previous inspections were adequate. However, those inspections were not as thorough as the company suggested, as proved by the material deficiency discovered later. In any case, because FirstEnergy cooperated with investigators on the matter, they were able to avoid more serious penalties. The company paid $28 million under a settlement with the Justice Department.[4] $23.7 million of that were fines, with an additional $4.3 million to be contributed to various groups, including the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Habitat for Humanity, and the University of Toledo as well as to pay some costs related to the federal investigation.[25]

Two former employees and one former contractor were indicted for statements made in multiple documents and one videotape, over several years, for hiding evidence that the reactor pressure vessel was being corroded by boric acid. The maximum penalty for the three was 25 years in prison. The indictment mentions that other employees also provided false information to inspectors, but does not name them.[25][26] In 2007, one of these men was convicted and another acquitted of hiding information from and lying to the NRC. Another jury trial in 2008 convicted the remaining engineer of similar crimes.[27]

2003 slammer worm computer virus[edit]

In January 2003, the plant's private network became infected with the slammer worm, which resulted in a five-hour loss of safety monitoring at the plant.[28][29]

2008 discovery of tritium leak[edit]

The NRC and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) were notified of a tritium leak accidentally discovered during an unrelated fire inspection on October 22, 2008. Preliminary indications suggest radioactive water did not infiltrate groundwater outside plant boundaries.[30]

2010 replacement reactor head problems[edit]

During a scheduled refueling outage in 2010, ultrasonic examinations performed on the control rod drive mechanism nozzles penetrating the reactor vessel closure head identified that two of the nozzles inspected did not meet acceptance criteria. FirstEnergy investigators subsequently found new cracks in 24 of 69 nozzles, including one serious enough to leak boric acid.[31][32] Crack indications required repair prior to returning the vessel head to service. Control rod drive nozzles were repaired using techniques proven at other nuclear facilities. The plant resumed operation in 2010. The existing reactor vessel head was scheduled for replacement in 2011.[33]

2011 shield building cracks[edit]

An October 2011 shutdown of the plant for maintenance revealed a 30 foot long hairline crack in the concrete shield building around the containment vessel.[34]

2012 reactor coolant pump seal pinhole leak[edit]

On June 6, 2012, an approximately 0.1 gpm pinhole spray leakage was identified from a weld in a seal of the reactor coolant pump during a routine reactor coolant system walkdown inspection. The plant entered limited operations, and root cause analysis was undertaken.[35]

2015 steam leak shutdown[edit]

On May 9, 2015, a steam leak in the turbine building caused FirstEnergy operators to declare an 'Unusual Event' and shut the reactor down until repairs could be made.[36] The plant was brought back online and synchronized with the local power grid at May 12 after repairs were completed.[37]


The facility's original nuclear operating license was set to expire on April 22, 2017. In August 2006, FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC) submitted a letter of intent to renew.[38] The submission date for the application was August 10, 2010. On December 8, 2015, the NRC granted a 20-year license extension to expire on April 22, 2037.[39] On March 31, 2018, FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company filed for Bankruptcy protection.[40] Around that time, the company indicated it would close the nuclear plant.[41] In 2019, Ohio lawmakers debated a $9/MWh subsidy to keep Davis–Besse open.[42] House Bill 6 was signed into law on July 23, 2019, and FirstEnergy announced it would refuel Davis–Besse and rescind its deactivation notice on July 24, 2019.[8] It was later learned that the bill itself was a part of a public corruption scheme revealed by the Justice Department in July 2020.[43] (→ Ohio nuclear bribery scandal)

Seismic risk[edit]

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's estimate of the risk each year of an earthquake intense enough to cause core damage to the reactor at Davis–Besse was 1 in 149,254, according to an NRC study published in August 2010.[44][45]

Surrounding population[edit]

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission defines two emergency planning zones around nuclear power plants: a plume exposure pathway zone with a radius of 10 miles (16 km), concerned primarily with exposure to, and inhalation of, airborne radioactive contamination, and an ingestion pathway zone of about 50 miles (80 km), concerned primarily with ingestion of food and liquid contaminated by radioactivity.[46]

The 2010 U.S. population within 10 miles (16 km) of Davis–Besse was 18,635, an increase of 14.2 percent in a decade, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data for msnbc.com. The 2010 U.S. population within 50 miles (80 km) was 1,791,856, an increase of 1.4 percent since 2000. Cities within 50 miles (80 km) include Sandusky, Ohio, 22 miles (35 km); Toledo, Ohio 26 miles (42 km); and Detroit, Michigan, 50 miles (80 km) (distance to the city centers).[47] U.S. Census data for Canadian population within the area is not available, though Leamington, Ontario (population: 30,000) is 39 miles (63 km) away, and Windsor, Ontario (population: 241,000) is 49 miles (79 km) from Davis–Besse.

The cooling tower for Davis–Besse stands at 493 feet above the surrounding area, making it a major landmark around the western end of Lake Erie. The tower is visible from the Michigan and Ontario shores and on clear days the condensing steam plume can be seen from Bowling Green, Ohio, over 40 miles away[citation needed].

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "EIA - State Nuclear Profiles". www.eia.gov. Retrieved 3 October 2017.
  2. ^ Johnston, Louis; Williamson, Samuel H. (2022). "What Was the U.S. GDP Then?". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved February 12, 2022. United States Gross Domestic Product deflator figures follow the Measuring Worth series.
  3. ^ a b Nuclear Regulatory Commission (September 16, 2004). "Davis–Besse preliminary accident sequence precursor analysis" (PDF). Retrieved June 14, 2006. and Nuclear Regulatory Commission (2004-09-20). "NRC issues preliminary risk analysis of the combined safety issues at Davis–Besse". Archived from the original on October 3, 2006. Retrieved June 14, 2006.
  4. ^ a b c d NRC (September 2009). "Fact Sheet on Improvements Resulting From Davis–Besse Incident". NRC Fact Sheet.
  5. ^ United States Government Accountability Office (2006). "Report to Congress" (PDF). p. 1.
  6. ^ Funk, John (March 28, 2018). "FirstEnergy Solutions will close its nuclear power plants, but is silent on bankruptcy restructuring". The Plain Dealer. Cleveland, Ohio. Retrieved March 29, 2018. During months of hearings, the company argued that its uncompetitive old coal and nuclear plants would become competitive once the price of natural gas increased. And at that point, customers would see credits on their monthly bills, they argued. Opponents cited federal predictions that natural gas would stay cheap for decades and customers would just keep on paying higher rates.
  7. ^ Henry, Tom (January 15, 2019). "Davis-Besse nuclear reactor close to full power". The Blade. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  8. ^ a b Carson, Daniel (July 24, 2019). "FirstEnergy Solutions announces it will refuel at Davis-Besse". Fremont News-Messenger. Retrieved July 25, 2019.
  9. ^ Pelzer, Jeremy (July 23, 2019). "Nuclear bailout bill passes Ohio legislature, signed by Gov. Mike DeWine". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved July 25, 2019.
  10. ^ a b Wamsley, Laura (2020-07-21). "Ohio House Speaker Arrested In Connection With $60 Million Bribery Scheme". NPR. Retrieved 2020-07-21. Last year's nuclear bailout law tacked on a charge to residents' power bills, sending $150 million a year to the nuclear power plants. They are owned by the company Energy Harbor, which was previously known as FirstEnergy Solutions.
  11. ^ U.S. v. Larry Householder, Jeffery Longstreth, Neil Clark, Matthew Borges, Juan Cespedes, and Generation Now (S.D. Ohio July 16, 2020).Text
  12. ^ [1] – Magee Marsh Wildlife Area
  13. ^ Energy Information Administration (November 2004). "U.S. Nuclear Reactor List – Operational". Archived from the original (XLS) on 2011-02-27. Retrieved 2006-06-14.
  14. ^ IAEA PRIS database http://www.iaea.org/PRIS/CountryStatistics/ReactorDetails.aspx?current=676
  15. ^ "Davis-Besse".
  16. ^ Walker, Samuel J. (2004) Three Mile Island: A Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective. Berkeley: University of California Press. p 68.
  17. ^ Nuclear Regulatory Commission. "Information Notice 85-80". Retrieved 2006-06-14.
  18. ^ United States Senate. "U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works Hearing Statements". Archived from the original on 2006-06-30. Retrieved 2006-07-07.
  19. ^ Nuclear Regulatory Commission. "News Release III-98-040". Retrieved 2006-07-07.
  20. ^ Nuclear Regulatory Commission. "News Announcement RIII-98-40a". Retrieved 2006-06-14.
  21. ^ NRC NUREG/BR-0353, Rev 1, pg 4
  22. ^ Cleveland Plain Dealer, Problems and solutions, July 16, 2003
  23. ^ NRC. EA-05-071 – Davis–Besse. April 21, 2005.
  25. ^ a b United States Department of Justice (January 20, 2006). "Firstenergy Nuclear Operating Company to Pay $28 Million Relating to Operation of Davis–Besse Nuclear Power Station". Retrieved June 14, 2006. and "Deferred prosecution agreement between the United States of America and FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company" (PDF). January 20, 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 27, 2007. Retrieved June 14, 2006.
  26. ^ Toledo Blade "Ex-engineer found guilty of concealing Davis–Besse dangers"
  27. ^ "Former FENOC Employee Convicted for Concealing Information from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission". 26 August 2008. Retrieved 23 February 2021.
  28. ^ The Register [2] 2003-08-20
  29. ^ Security Focus [3] 2003-08-19
  30. ^ "Davis–Besse radioactive leak is fixed". The Blade. October 25, 2008.
  31. ^ "8 more nozzles at Davis-Besse found to be flawed". The Blade. Toledo, OH. 2010-05-04. Retrieved 2015-07-27.
  32. ^ "Meeting set to discuss Besse reactor-head flaws". The Blade. Toledo, OH. 2010-05-15. Retrieved 2015-07-27.
  33. ^ Funk, John (2010-06-21). "FirstEnergy to replace lid on Davis-Besse nuclear power plant". The Plain Dealer. Cleveland, OH. Retrieved 2015-07-27.
  34. ^ "Davis–Besse's restart proper, company, NRC officials say", Toledo Blade, 6 January 2012, retrieved 14 January 2012
  35. ^ NRC Event Report 48000, retrieved 8 June 2012
  36. ^ "Davis-Besse still shutdown due to steam issue". Sandusky Register. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  37. ^ Henry, Tom (May 14, 2015). "Davis-Besse expected to be at full power today". The Blade. Retrieved May 18, 2015.
  38. ^ "FENOC letter of intent for license renewal". August 11, 2006. Archived from the original on October 17, 2007.
  40. ^ "FirstEnergy Solutions - Restructuring". FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. Retrieved May 10, 2019.
  41. ^ "First Energy Files for Bankruptcy; To Close 4 Nuclear Reactors". Neutron Bytes. April 1, 2018. Retrieved May 10, 2019.
  42. ^ Pelzer, Jeremy (June 24, 2019). "How (un)profitable are Ohio's two nuclear plants? FirstEnergy Solutions says it can't tell the public". cleveland.com.
  43. ^ U.S. v. Larry Householder, Jeffery Longstreth, Neil Clark, Matthew Borges, Juan Cespedes, and Generation Now (S.D. Ohio July 16, 2020).Text
  44. ^ Bill Dedman, "What are the odds? US nuke plants ranked by quake risk," msnbc.com, March 17, 2011 [4] Accessed April 19, 2011.
  45. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-05-25. Retrieved 2017-05-05.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  46. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-10-02. Retrieved 2013-12-13.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  47. ^ Bill Dedman, Nuclear neighbors: Population rises near US reactors, msnbc.com, April 14, 2011 [5] Accessed May 1, 2011.

External links[edit]