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San Onofre Operator Requests to Restart Reactor

Aired 4/1/13 on KPBS News.

The operator of the San Onofre nuclear power plant, Southern California Edison, has submitted a draft request for a license amendment to restart the plant at 70 percent power this summer. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission meets this week to consider the request.

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.
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Above: The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

The operator of the San Onofre nuclear power plant, Southern California Edison, has submitted a draft request for a license amendment to restart the plant at 70 percent power this summer. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission meets this week to consider the request.

It’s the next step in the long-running saga of whether to restart the San Onofre nuclear power plant, which has been shut down for more than a year since a small radiation leak was detected in one of its new steam generators.

Southern California Edison has conceded it could only run one reactor safely at 100 percent power for 11 months, so the company is seeking a license amendment from the NRC to run Unit 2 at 70 percent power.

According to the request, “SCE would be asking the NRC to act on the amendment before the end of May to facilitate timely restart of Unit 2 to meet peak summer electricity demand. Following the initial five-month operating period, SCE would shut down Unit 2 for steam generator tube inspections. Based on inspection data, Unit 2 would resume operation at 70 percent power for an appropriate operating period during the remainder of the 18-24 month fuel cycle while SCE updates its analysis to determine the appropriate long-term power level.”

Rochelle Becker of the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility said ratepayers should oppose the idea of restarting at 70 percent power.

“When Edison originally applied to the new steam generators in 2004, their statements said the plant would only be cost effective if both units ran at 88 percent power,” she said, “so granting them a license to run at 70 percent power is not cost effective.”

Ken Schultz, a retired nuclear engineer and chair of the San Diego Chapter of the American Nuclear Society, said Edison’s strategy makes sense: generating at least some power while they figure out who will pay to replace the faulty steam generators.

“If it’s running at 70 per cent power, meanwhile someone can manufacture a new one so that the downtime for replacement would be less,” Schultz said. “If you look at the economics of it, I think replacing the whole thing is probably preferable to taking it apart and replacing parts and putting it back together again.”

The faulty steam generators cost more than $700 million and since they only operated for a year or two before being shut down, rate payers have paid only a portion of that cost already.

Becker said Edison’s financial statements note that it would take five years to replace the steam generators. She said California’s Public Utilities Commission, which is currently investigating the problems at San Onofre, must calculate whether it is cost effective to spend more time and money to bring the plant back online.

Opponents of the restart plan say Edison is attempting to sidestep federal regulation by applying for the license amendment with a “No Significant Hazard Consideration,” which would exempt the company from public hearings on the license until after the amendment was granted.

Edison said it is considering submitting a final amendment request after discussing it with the NRC staff at a public meeting Wednesday in Rockville, Maryland.

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Avatar for user 'CaptD'

CaptD | April 1, 2013 at 12:47 p.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

Get ready for a news release (later today or tomorrow morning) from the DAB Safety that will blow holes in their latest restart plan!

More comments from the Patch about the restart discussion:

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Avatar for user 'marasmom'

marasmom | April 1, 2013 at 2:28 p.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

We Are NOT Fooled: "San Onofre hasn't been 'the largest source of baseload generation and voltage support in the region,' as Edison repeatedly claims, for the past 14 months and counting, and the CA Independent System Operator (ISO) says we'll do just fine without it for the second Southern California summer upcoming. For example, voltage support will be provided by retrofitting the retired, Edison-owned Huntington Beach power plant as a 'synchronous condenser' ...

"Per the CA Energy Commission, despite increased population and more appliances consuming power in homes and businesses, energy efficiency standards have helped keep per capita electricity consumption in California flat for the past 30 years. California's per capita electricity consumption has remained constant at approximately 7,000 kilowatt-hours/year (kWh) for the last 30 years due in large part to strict standards for homes and appliances. The rest of the U.S. has increased 40 percent (to roughly 12,000 kWh/year per person). And there is even more savings to be gained through additional advances in energy efficiency as well as conservation by users. Not to mention the boom in rooftop solar installations, with San Diego County leading the state.

"Edison needs to stop with the Chicken Little routine -- the sky is NOT falling. The 21st Century is just moving forward."

As of last summer, California generates 1,255 MW of electricity from 122,516 rooftops (more than one of the San Onofre Nuclear Reactors). Rooftop solar installation can be done in a matter of months, and the CA Air Resources Board estimates that 150 permanent jobs are created for each 100 megawatt (MW) of local solar added. As an indication of the growth potential of this job sector, in San Diego County, we have only installed 2% (or 140 MW) of rooftop and parking lot capacity -- this is a GROWTH industry!

Here is a weblink to our letter faxed to Senator Boxer and Congressman Waxman today, with cc's to Senator Feinstein, NRC Chair Allison Macfarlane and several senior NRC managers, including those responsible for the decison on Restart of San Onofre, Eric Leeds and Art Howell:

The Coalition to Decommission San Onofre is comprised of community-based, grassroots organizations in San Diego and Orange Counties concerned for the safety of 8.5 million residents living within 50 miles of the defective San Onofre nuclear reactors, and for the economy of Southern California. These organizations include: Citizens Oversight, Earthkeepers San Diego, the Peace Resource Center of San Diego, San Clemente Green,, and Women Occupy San Diego.

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Avatar for user 'WhatsItAllAbout'

WhatsItAllAbout | April 1, 2013 at 9:32 p.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

So the Edison Plan is to reduce safety standards
so they can turn that damaged reactor back on
and keep San Onofre in the rate base.


"No Significant Hazard Consideration" ?? Really ??

What could go wrong?
It's only a nuclear power reactor.

In the middle of overdue earthquake zone.

With the worst safety record of all the reactors in the U.S.

With seriously damaged steam generators.

With the ability to turn the population of Southern California homeless in hours.

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Avatar for user 'marasmom'

marasmom | April 1, 2013 at 9:39 p.m. ― 3 years, 11 months ago

That's 88% in the Rochelle Becker quote.

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