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San Onofre’s Problems Deepen

Audio

Aired 4/13/12

Hopes that problems at San Onofre’s Unit 2 reactor might be less serious than those at Unit 3 are now fading. California’s energy agencies are gearing up efforts to get substitute power from decommissioned power plants.

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station
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Above: San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station

Hopes that problems at San Onofre’s Unit 2 reactor might be less serious than those at Unit 3 are now fading. California’s energy agencies are gearing up efforts to get substitute power from decommissioned power plants.

NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said when he visited San Onofre there was a chance Unit 2 could be restarted before Unit 3, since it’s steam generator tubes might be wearing prematurely for different reasons.

“They need to demonstrate to us that Unit 2 is not experiencing the same kind of degradation,” Jaczko said, “ so it is possible that they could move forward for a different path for restart - but a lot of that will depend on what the causes are.”

But now Southern California Edison says they’ve found more tube wear in Unit 2, similar though less serious than in Unit 3. The tubes in both steam generators were replaced in the past two years, with a design unique to San Onofre.

Meanwhile, California’s Independent Systems Operator says it has informed AES, the operator of a gas powered plant at Huntingdon Beach, that it wants two decommissioned units there back on line by mid May.

Eric Pendergraft, President of AES, said the company is looking at plugging holes put into the boilers of the two units when they were decommissioned last year. The units were sold to a subsidiary of Edison and taken off line to allow Edison to build another power plant elsewhere, but Pendergraft said the units are legally operable till 2020.

He believes AES will be able to bring the units back on line by May, depending on certain regulatory conditions. He says the California Energy Commission is visiting the plant today.

Meanwhile nuclear watchdog, Friends of the Earth, released a second study today, laying the blame for the problems at San Onofre on design changes made recently when tubes in the steam generators were replaced. The report, by Arnie Gundersen and Fairewinds Associates, says the cause of the premature wear of the steam generator tubes is the same for both units, and is due to making those changes with insufficient review.

Comments

Avatar for user 'johngeesman'

johngeesman | April 13, 2012 at 11:02 a.m. ― 2 years, 8 months ago

Why did it take so long for this tube-on-tube degradation in Unit 2 to become public? And only after NRC Chairman Jaczko and Congressman Issa had been put in the embarrassing position of suggesting that Unit 2 could be on a fast track for restart?

Unit 2 was down for maintenance when Unit 3's leak caused it to shut down on January 31, and the media reported on February 2: But the OC Register reported on February 2 the following: “ 'They have inspected 80 percent of the tubes in one of the steam generators at unit 2,' said Victor Dricks, spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 'Two of the tubes have thinning so extensive that they need to be plugged and taken out of service. Sixty nine other tubes have thinning greater than 20 percent of the wall thickness, and a larger number have thinning greater than 10 percent of wall thickness.' The tubes with 10 percent thinning number more than 800, he said."

After more than 10 weeks, when do we get the scorecard for each of the two SG's in Unit 2 and each of the two SG's in Unit 3?

Certainly Edison International CEO Ted Craver knows the first rule of crisis management is get the information out there quickly and accurately, then live with the consequences. Very bad form, Ted.

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