SONGS restart plan filed with nuclear commission

SAN ONOFRE (CNS) – A plan to restart the off-line San Onofre Nuclear
Generating Station has been submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for
approval, the plant's operator announced Thursday.

The plan, which cites no specific restart date, calls for one of two
units at the northern San Diego County facility to be powered up at 70 percent
power for a five-month trial period, according to Southern California Edison,
which runs the plant and co-owns it with San Diego Gas & Electric and the city
of Riverside.

The commission, which must sign off on the restart plan, is expected to
spend months reviewing it.

Critics expected to lobby against the proposal include Friends of the
Earth. The environmental group released a statement this morning, calling the
restart plan “a reckless gamble that flies in the face of (SCE's) claim that
it puts safety ahead of profits.”

The plant's power generators — called Unit 2 and Unit 3 — were
deactivated in January. Unit 2 was taken off-line for planned maintenance,
while Unit 3 was abruptly shut down after a leak was detected in one of its
steam generator tubes.

Edison is proposing to restart Unit 2 while Unit 3 remains offline for
further inspection, analysis and testing.

“Safety is our top priority, and after conducting more than 170,000
inspections to understand and prevent the problem, and confirming the
corrective actions we have taken to solve the problem with the top experts from
around the world, we have concluded that Unit 2 at San Onofre can be operated
safety and within industry norms,” SCE President Ron Litzinger said. “When
implemented, this plan will get San Onofre Unit 2 back to providing reliable
and clean energy to Southern Californians.”

The leak in Unit 3 was caused by tube-to-tube wear due to a phenomenon
called “fluid elastic instability,” Edison reported. The utility said a
combination of high-steam velocity and low-moisture conditions in specific
locations of tube bundles and ineffective tube support systems in the same
bundle locations causes the phenomenon and subsequent wear, leading to leaks.

Unit 2 was also susceptible to the same vibration-causing environment
but to a lesser degree than Unit 3, SCE officials said, noting Unit 2 can be
safely restarted at 70 percent power without triggering fluid elastic
instability. Some critics argued against the assertion, saying the designs of
the units are essentially the same.

Edison officials said if the restart plan is approved, they would
operate Unit 2 for five months and then shut it down to inspect it for leaks.

The plan also envisions Edison installing early warning monitors on the
unit that can detect extremely small leaks faster and plant employees receiving
additional training on how to respond to a leak.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate's Environment and
Public Works Committee, called on the nuclear commission today to complete its
investigation into safety concerns at the plant before considering the request
to restart it.

In a letter to NRC head Allison Macfarlane, Boxer said the regulatory
body's focus “must be on fulfilling its safety mission and providing the
millions of people who live near San Onofre with the peace of mind that the
reactors are safe.”

” I want to make certain that the NRC fully understands the causes of
the unusual tube deterioration, is confident that the plant can be safely
restarted given the current condition of the tubes and has determined that the
facility can be safely operated in the future,” the senator wrote.

Boxer asked Macfarlane to provide those assurances by Oct. 12.

Categories: KUSI