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April 19, 2000

Nuclear plant nearing restart Workers prepare for NRC's final inspection

Tribune Staff Writer

BRIDGMAN -- The next milestone for Donald C. Cook Nuclear Plant is to run the reactor coolant pumps now that Unit 2 reactor refueling is complete.

Cook officials said Tuesday they hope to bolt the reactor head shut by the end of this week and begin filling and venting the reactor coolant system next week.

Based on the progress made, plant officials expect to be ready for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's final restart inspections, which are scheduled to begin May 8 and take about two weeks.

The first steps of power ascension then could begin, depending on the inspection results.

The same steps will be repeated in the fall on Unit 1.

Cook's two reactors have been shut down since September 1997 due to concerns about safety systems raised during an NRC design and engineering inspection.

American Electric Power, the plant's owner, was fined $500,000 by the NRC for a number of design-related violations in 1988.

Robert Powers, vice president of nuclear generation, told NRC Region 3 staff members during a monthly update that refueling of the reactor cleared the way for other startup testing to proceed. The project was completed Friday.

"Clearly, refueling was a major milestone," he said.

Jack Grobe, director of Region 3's division of reactor safety, said NRC inspectors closely monitored the movement of fuel assemblies into the reactor core and reported no hitches in the project.

"Our observations of the fuel load were positive," Grobe said.

"There has been a lot of progress made," he added. "We continue to see good work."

Chris Bakken, the plant's site vice president, said 73,000 hours of startup work still needs to be done and that workers are reducing the total by 10,000 to 15,000 hours a week.

The workload is dominated by tests and reviews of procedures, he added, as plant systems are switched gradually to operations.

The NRC's two final inspections will assess the plant's readiness for restart and review any maintenance work and modifications that have been deferred until after restart.

Cook and Region 3 officials have met periodically to discuss restart preparations

-- Martin Thompson (, April 19, 2000

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