Tuesday, March 27, 2012
An environmental group is reporting that Southern California Edison failed to tell regulators about equipment changes at the San Onofre nuclear power plant. The group's study of available documents shows that new tubing carrying radioactive water wears out at alarming rates, creating the risk of leaks.
Edison didn't tell the Nuclear Regulatory Commission it had made design changes inside new steam generators it installed one year ago at San Onofre.
That's according to Arnold Gundersen who is a chief engineer of the energy consulting company Fairewinds Associates. Gundersen reviewed those design changes and believes they are responsible for increasing the wear rate - up to 20 times higher than normal - for tubes carrying radioactive water.
San Onofre has been offline after a tiny radiation leak was discovered in a worn tube two months ago. Gundersen said if the design changes aren't addressed, the repercussions could be great.
"The net effect could be that they have to shut down I-5 for an extended period of time, or the beach...they would have to initiate their emergency plan if their tube were to break," he said.
An Edison spokesperson declined to be interviewed. But the utility said in a statement that at all times during the steam generator replacement process, it provided open and transparent information to regulators. It added that the nuclear plan will not be back online until it is completely safe.