San Onofre Shutdown Costing Up To $1 Million A Day

Thursday, February 2, 2012
By Claire Trageser, Ed Joyce / Capital Public Radio, Maureen Cavanaugh, Patty Lane

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station remained off-line for a second day today after it was shut down by a small gas leak that possibly spread to the atmosphere.

The leak was first detected at the power plant just north of Camp Pendleton at about 6 p.m. Tuesday, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Personnel then immediately began shutting down the reactor.

The two-day shutdown is likely costing the power plant $600,000 to $1 million a day, Murray Jennex told KPBS television’s Evening Edition. Jennex is an associate professor with San Diego State University’s Homeland Security Program and also worked as a consultant for San Onofre for several years.

Because the steam generator where the leak occurred was only installed in 2010, Jennex said he questions whether there are manufacturing problems with the generator or if it is not being properly maintained.

“As an engineer I’d like to have seen it go a few years without having a tube leak occur,” he said.

Jennex said he suspects a “weird flow condition” might have caused problems with the tube.

“To me that just says perhaps we need to make sure that we’re taking care of the steam generator in the right way,” he said.

Gil Alexander, spokesman for Southern California Edison, confirmed during an interview with KPBS-FM’s Midday Edition that more than one tube was damaged.

“We are detecting some accelerated wear in very small areas on one or two of the tubes,” he said.

NRC spokesman Victor Dricks said radioactive gas "could have" escaped the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station on the northern San Diego coast after the Tuesday shutdown.

Alexander said the amount would have been "extremely small" and possibly not detectable by monitors.

The company and federal regulators said the release would not have posed a safety risk for the public.

"It would have been very, very small, low level, which would not pose a danger to anyone," Dricks said.