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Costs At Ailing San Onofre Nuclear Plant Top $300 Million

Costs tied to the long-running shutdown at the San Onofre nuclear power plant in California have hit $317 million, and it's not clear if the ailing plant will return to full power, according to documents released Thursday.

Evening sets on the San Onofre atomic power plant December 6, 2004 in norther...
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Above: Evening sets on the San Onofre atomic power plant December 6, 2004 in northern San Diego County, south of San Clemente, California.

The bill for repairs and inspections through Sept. 30 has climbed to $96 million, Edison International, the parent of plant operator Southern California Edison, said in records filed with federal regulators.

With the plant out of service, replacement power costs have jumped to $221 million during that period.

The plant located between Los Angeles and San Diego hasn't produced electricity since January.

The problems center on four steam generators that were installed during a $670 million overhaul in 2009 and 2010.

The Unit 3 reactor was shut down Jan. 31 as a precaution after a tube break. Traces of radiation escaped at the time, but officials said there was no danger to workers or neighbors.

Unit 2 had been taken offline earlier that month for maintenance, but investigators later found unexpected wear on hundreds of tubes inside steam generators in both units. Later tests found some tubes were so badly corroded that they could fail and possibly release radiation.

The company has asked federal regulators for permission to repair and restart the Unit 2 reactor and run it at reduced power. A decision is not expected for months.

In a conference call with Wall Street analysts, Edison Chairman Ted Craver left open the possibility that the generators might eventually be scrapped.

Craver said it's not clear if the plant will ever return to full power. He added, "It appears complete replacement of the steam generators would take some years."

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Avatar for user 'Dr_Atom'

Dr_Atom | November 6, 2012 at 2:35 p.m. ― 4 years, 4 months ago

Radioactive leaks due to rupture of prematurely degraded metal tubing have released an undisclosed amount of radioactivity from Unit 3 of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. The same deterioration has been found in unit 2. Leaks like these can lead to massive radiation escape by draining cooling water from the reactors, rapidly causing collapse of containment. Massive radiation release from San Onofre could endanger 8.4 million people living within 50 miles. A smaller leak could close Camp Pendleton, threatening national security. The cause of the premature aging of the metal tubing is not understood. Previous seismic safety models must now be called into question. San Onofre's Unit 1 reactor operated from 1968 to 1992 and was closed after 24 years. Units 2 and 3 have been operating for nearly 30 years, since 1982 and 1983, respectively. These aged reactors need to be closed. NRC’s once- or twice-a-year cursory inspections are not sufficient to ensure safety of these aging reactors. Any attempts to repair these aged reactors endanger workers known as jumpers who absorb large doses of radiation, sometimes a year’s worth of permissible exposure, in a short-time. Medically, it is not known if this is actually a safe practice. Shut down these aging reactors permanently before the human cost for this power becomes too high.

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