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Perry, Davis-Besse nuclear power plants move one step closer to deactivation

FirstEnergy Solutions has submitted details of its training program for removal and storage of fuel from its nuclear plants.
Credit: Fremont News Messenger
FirstEnergy Solutions submitted its Certified Fuel Handler Training and Retraining Program to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor is scheduled to close in May 2020.

CARROLL TOWNSHIP - FirstEnergy Solutions has taken the next step toward deactivating Perry Nuclear Power Plant, Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station and its other plant in the region, as legislative efforts to help the facilities have stalled.

The company announced Wednesday that it had submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission its Certified Fuel Handler Training and Retraining Program, as required under the NRC’s decommissioning process.

FES also reported that it must either purchase the fuel required for Davis-Besse’s next refueling or proceed with the scheduled plant shutdown by mid-2019.

May 2020 is the scheduled date for deactivation of the Ottawa County nuclear plant. Perry is scheduled to be deactivated in May 2021.

MORE | FirstEnergy files deactivation notice for Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear power plants

Thomas Mulligan, a spokesman for FirstEnergy Solutions Inc,. said there were a number of scheduled steps the company had to follow in the time leading up to Davis-Besse's deactivation.

He said efforts for any state legislation that could help FES' two Ohio plants appeared to be on hold.

"There is no legislation at this moment that I'm aware of," Mulligan said.

State Sen. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

State Rep. Steve Arndt, R-Port Clinton, said there had been discussions as recent as this week between state legislators and FES regarding the Davis-Besse and Perry plants and how lawmakers could help both facilities.

Arndt said he was working on a new draft piece of legislation that he has shared with FES and other energy operators that could provide a boost to nuclear power facilties.

The state representative talked about his proposed “fuel security resiliency” legislation at a June town hall meeting in Elmore. That bill would require 18 months of fuel on site or a five-year contract with a fuel source.

Arndt said there had also been discussions on whether existing proposed legislation might, with amendments, meet the needs of embattled energy companies in Ohio.

Mulligan declined to comment on any discussions the company has had with either state legislators or federal agencies regarding FES' nuclear facilities.

According to FES, the filing Wednesday details the training program for professionals who will supervise the removal and on-site storage of fuel from the nuclear plants.

FES announced in March that it would deactivate the Davis-Besse plant in May 2020, the Perry plant in May 2021, and two units at its plant in Beaver Valley in May and October 2021.

Also in March, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Northern District of Ohio in Akron.

In a statement released Wednesday, Don Moul, FES President and Chief Nuclear Officer, said the company's NRC submission was "a necessary milestone but not a welcome one."

Moul said FES cannot continue to operate the plants without "state-level policy relief in Ohio and Pennsylvania or immediate and significant market reforms that provide meaningful compensation for the unique attributes nuclear generation provides.”

He said the company intends to work with Ohio and Pennsylvania on a solution that would keep all three nuclear plants in operation.

Mulligan said staffing levels remain the same at Davis-Besse as they did before FES filed for bankruptcy.

In June, Mulligan told the News-Messenger the company will use a SAFSTOR method to store spent nuclear fuel on-site.

SAFSTOR is described by the NRC as a method of decommissioning in which a nuclear facility is placed and maintained in a condition that allows the facility to be safely stored and subsequently decontaminated to levels that permit release for unrestricted use.

Mulligan said the spent fuel would first be put into a pool and then placed into dry cask storage, and could be stored up to 60 years at Davis-Besse.

Once the fuel is put into dry cask storage, the only employees that will remain on-site will be security personnel, he said.

Jamie Beier Grant, executive director of the Ottawa County Improvement Corporation, said Friday the county and OCIC continue to have regular dialogue with FirstEnergy Solutions and Davis-Besse regarding the future of the plant.

Despite its uncertain future, the Davis-Besse plant has has been recruiting for job openings, Beier Grant said.