From: "Russell D. Hoffman" <>
Subject: Was it terorism?  Or carelessness?  Or stupidity that nearly cost us Ohio?



Did you hear about what almost happened at Davis-Besse, a nuclear reactor in Ohio?

It would have been "10 times worse than Chernobyl" as one eminent scientist I've spoken to put it.

Most people have no idea how close we came to catastrophe. A mere half inch.

Here's the basic sequence, in lay-person's terms:

Davis-Besse is a 900 Megawatt PWR (Pressurized Water Reactor) owned by FirstEnergy Corp..  It is located 21 miles ESE of Toledo, OH. It first went online in 1977. It's getting OLD.

Winds tend to go from the Northwest to the Southeast in that part of the country, but not always.  Areas that are variously downwind from Davis-Besse include Sandusky, OH, Cleveland, OH, Pittsburgh, PA, Washington DC, Toronto, Canada, as well as Virginia, West Virginia, New Jersey, NYC, Long Island, New England, Maryland, Delaware, North Carolina...

On March 11th, 2002, while investigating other leaks in flanges (the Nuclear Regulatory Commission calls them "nozzles" but they're really flanges) above (and coming out of) the reactor vessel investigators discovered a hole all the way through the reactor pressure vessel's carbon-manganese six-inch thick steel outer layer.  The hole was four inches by five inches wide on the surface when it was discovered.  All that held back the 2500-PSI pressure inside the reactor was a half-inch thick stainless steel liner (variously reported as only 3/8ths of an inch thick) -- on the inside of the reactor pressure vessel head -- and the liner was BULGING!

If the liner had cracked, the accident would have been of Biblical proportions indeed.  (Imagine a hole in a piece of cardboard, covered with a piece of plastic food wrap, and you push your finger through the hole.  That's what was happening to the reactor pressure vessel.  How much time was left?  Days?  Weeks?  We'll never know -- luck (or God) saved us because the reactor head was checked just in time.  You've heard of Just In Time Manufacturing?  This was Just In Time Catastrophe Avoidance!

Had the situation progressed much further, and a crack develop in the liner, the extremely radioactive water explosively rushing out would have, in short order (seconds, or fractions of a second):

*1) Flashed over to steam.
*2) Expanded the hole in the reactor vessel.
*3) Cracked the reactor's fuel rods and thrown their contents towards and out the hole.
*4) Pulverized the fuel pellets as they flew through the hole at tremendous speed, further expanding the hole in the reactor vessel.
*5) Cut a hole in the containment dome like it was made of BUTTER.  Yes, I know containment domes are up to about ten feet thick, but this stuff is at 2500 PSI [2200 PSI -- rdh 20020505], at well over a thousand degrees Fahrenheit [corrected figure is more like 666 degrees F -- rdh, 20020505], possibly actually getting MUCH hotter as it's pulverized coming out the hole [the theory being that the water would be heated from the breakup of the reactor fuel pellets and the friction of being shot out the hole -- immediately after leaving the RPV, the liquid would, of course, cool, but how much will it cool before it hits the containment dome, for all accident scenarios? -- rdh 20020505], and concrete itself pulverizes at about 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  And there is LOTS of coolant in the system which will virtually ALL get shot out the hole in the pressure vessel like it was coming out of a cannon, along with the fuel rod assemblies and everything else inside the reactor (that is, pieces of irradiated metal, some of which will flash-burn if they come in contact with oxygen).  In the end, the containment dome would [could --rdh, 20020505] have a hole in it directly out from where the hole in the pressure vessel was. There would be pulverized radioactive particles spewing into the air and falling onto the ground for hundreds of miles around.
*6) Killed millions of Americans.
*7) Been blamed on terrorists, and we would have bombed another country into Depleted Uranium hell, in the vain belief that it would somehow alleviate our own misery and suffering.  But the true culprit was our own technology!

The cost would be in the trillions, the suffering unspeakable, and we wouldn't even know what hit us.  A "China Syndrome" would be better than this!  Chernobyl would have been better than this!  We dodged a bullet.  Was it sabotage?  Boron doesn't normally corrode carbon-manganese steel.  Was something added to the borated water just so that something like this would happen?  If so, what?  And when?  And by whom?  Did a worker leave something in the works, which corroded and changed the chemical structure of the water (negligence), or was something placed in the water on purpose?

The above statement was written by Russell Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA

Below is the CURRENT (March 25th, 2002) Department of Energy (DOE) description of the Davis-Besse reactor.  Note the following sentence: "Safety-related problems in its early years tarnished its reputation, but its sale to new owners has brought about a recovery."  How inappropriate can you get?!?  I bet they'll change this wording very soon, if they haven't already.



The Davis-Besse plant is a single unit reactor located east of Toledo in Oak Harbor, Ohio on the shore of Lake Erie. The site covers 954 acres of which 733 acres is leased to the U.S. government for a National Wildlife Refuge. Safety-related problems in its early years tarnished its reputation, but its sale to new owners has brought about a recovery. The site is licensed for dry storage of spent nuclear fuel and had 3 casks as of March 2000.
Operator: FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co.
Owners: Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company (51.4%), Toledo Edison Company (48.6%)
Reactor Supplier: Babcock & Wilcox
Capacity: 873 net MWe
Reactor Type: Pressurized water reactor

Date of Operation: April 1977
License Expiration date: 04/22/2017
Electricity Produced in 2000: 6.70 billion kWh
2000 Average Capacity Factor: 87.32%


For a list of all nuclear reactors in the United States: