San Onofre power plant to remain offline for now

SAN ONOFRE (CNS) – The troubled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station
will remain offline until the troubles with the plant are fully diagnosed and
corrected, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ordered this week in a letter to
Southern California Edison.

Unit 3 of the plant south of San Clemente has been shut down since Jan.
31, when station operators detected a leak in one of its steam generator tubes.
Its two steam generators are undergoing extensive testing and inspections in
order to fully assess their condition and the cause of the leak.

Unit 2 was taken down for planned maintenance Jan. 9.

Southern California Edison, which operates the facility, has said
previously the plant would not return to operation until tests confirm it is
safe.

An inspection team from the NRC has been at the plant overseeing the
repair and inspection work.

Edison officials said today they were committed to working with the NRC
to meet all requirements for restarting the plant.

“We welcome the NRC's letter, which is a formal step in the process of
restarting Units 2 and 3,” Edison President Ron Litzinger said. “Our number
one priority is, and always has been, the health and safety of the public and
our employees. The utility will only bring the units on line when we and the
NRC are satisfied that it is safe to do so.”

Edison has committed in writing to the NRC that it “will proceed
deliberately and conservatively to implement these steps, always bearing in
mind that safety is our first priority,” according to the utility.

Meanwhile, the Friends of the Earth organization hired Fairewinds
Associates, a firm that specializes in nuclear engineering and safety analysis,
to review the San Onofre plant. The Fairewinds report accuses Edison of a lack
of transparency about the problems and blames the utility for making
modifications that led to the leaks.

“An investigation conducted by Fairewinds Associates has identified
that a series of major modifications to the internal design of replacement
steam generators in both San Onofre Units 2 and 3 are likely the cause of
excessive wear, leaks and pressure test failures in the team generator tubes,”
the report reads.

The report goes on to say: “Despite Edison's rush to make an early
restart of at least Unit 2 if not Unit 3, and the apparent relaxed approach of
the NRC as to their role in the timing of any start up by Edison, Fairewinds
Associates recommends that both San Onofre Unit 2 and Unit 3 remain shut down
until the `root causes' of the nuclear power plant's rapid tube failures are
understood and repaired, reliability is assured, and radioactive releases are
prevented.”

Edison spokeswoman Jennifer Manfre said the utility has “provided open
and transparent information to the NRC.”

Edison “has been communicating from the beginning that we're not
returning 2 and 3 to service until we're satisfied it's safe to do so,” Manfre
said. “That's a testament right there to we're not putting a timeline on it.
There's no deadline for safety.”

The utility has “done quite a bit to educate people on what is
happening,” Manfre said.

In case the power plant cannot be fully operational for the summer,
Edison is also considering “contingency plans” such as buying power from
another source and encouraging more conservation among its customers, Manfre
said.

“Right now it is March so we have some time to come up with some
contingency plans,” she said.

Categories: KUSI