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Once-Through’ Cooling Another Hurdle For San Onofre

Aired 4/17/13 on KPBS News.

California regulators meet today to discuss expensive upgrades needed for the state's nuclear power plants' cooling systems.

Faulty steam generators are not the only problems facing the San Onofre nuclear power plant.

California regulators meet today to discuss extensive upgrades needed for the cooling systems of the state's two nuclear power plants: San Onofre and Diablo Canyon.

The plants use millions of gallons of ocean water as coolant. The state will soon require all power plants to change their “once–through” ocean cooling systems to avoid killing marine life.

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

Eric Greene of the California Public Utilities Commission’s Energy Division is part of a Nuclear Review Committee that meets today under the auspices of the California Water Resources Control Board. The committee will review a report on feasible options for San Onofre and Diablo Canyon.

Greene said Southern California Edison is considering its alternatives. One of them is to erect huge cooling towers beside the domes of San Onofre or SONGS. But he said that would be very expensive.

“They also require flat land,” he said, “and SONGS has a very limited site. Although it is flat, there is not much land to do it on.“

San Onofre is sandwiched between the freeway and the ocean on land leased from the Navy. Greene said if Edison chooses the option of cooling towers, the company would have to negotiate for more land from the Camp Pendleton Marine Base.

The plant is currently offline, and Edison is applying for a temporary license amendment to restart one reactor at 70 percent power for two years.

However, if the plant is to continue to operate in the long term, Edison will also need to resolve the cooling issue.

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