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NRC Could Alter Rules For San Onofre Restart

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Federal regulators Tuesday disclosed they are considering changing requirements set last year to restart the San Onofre nuclear power plant in California, another potential hurdle for the company that wants to return the troubled plant to service.

The twin reactors between Los Angeles and San Diego haven't produced electricity since January 2012, when a tiny radiation leak led to the discovery of damage to hundreds of tubes that carry radioactive water.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission last year outlined a series of steps operator Southern California Edison must take before a restart would be allowed, including determining how to stop damage to tubes in the plant's steam generators. Edison last fall year submitted a plan to restart one reactor and run it at reduced power in an effort to halt tube erosion.

But NRC Deputy Regional Administrator Art Howell said in a hearing in Dana Point the agency is considering changing those requirements "as needed." He didn't elaborate.

Meanwhile, the NRC announced it was preparing a fresh round of technical questions for the company about its restart proposal.

Edison spokeswoman Jennifer Manfre said in an email the company "will continue to respond to all questions and requests for information throughout this entire, thorough process."

Last year, federal officials blamed a botched computer analysis for design flaws that they said are largely to blame for unprecedented wear in tubes at the plant. They found a computer analysis by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which manufactured the generators, vastly misjudged how water and steam would flow in the reactors.

Gradual wear is common in steam generator tubing, but the rate of erosion at San Onofre stunned officials because the equipment, installed in a $670 million overhaul in 2009 and 2010, is relatively new.

The NRC last week began investigating claims by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., that Edison was aware of generator problems linked to the 2012 tube break. The company disputed the account.

The generators, which resemble massive steel fire hydrants, control heat in the reactors and operate something like a car radiator. At San Onofre, each one stands 65 feet high, weighs 1.3 million pounds and has 9,727 U-shaped tubes inside, each three-quarters of an inch in diameter.

Overall, NRC records show investigators found wear from friction and vibration in 15,000 places, in varying degrees, in 3,401 tubes inside the plant's four generators, two in each reactor.

The plant is owned by SCE, San Diego Gas & Electric and the city of Riverside.

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Avatar for user 'susanmartha'

susanmartha | February 13, 2013 at 8:07 a.m. ― 4 years ago

SCE execrable behavior during this entire ordeal makes it very difficult to trust anything they claim about this plan to restart and run at lower capacity. i am unwilling to become a subject in this experiment, i can only hope the NRC shuts down this facility. permanently.

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Avatar for user 'philosopher3000'

philosopher3000 | February 13, 2013 at 12:30 p.m. ― 4 years ago

The Billion$ that SONGS has cost thus far has been passed on to the customer rate-payers via the government sanctioned monopoly on energy production that Southern California Edison has been granted. SCE is incompetent to run a safe nuclear power plant, they installed generators that overheated and shook themselves apart. They have been shut down for over a year and passed on that $50,000,000/month cost to us, while producing NOTHING!

The fiasco is getting scandalous. SCE is an INVESTOR OWNE UTILITY, yet as part of the government's centralized energy production system, it is able to pass on it's losses to the public. This must not be allowed, we must shut down SONGS for public safety, it sits on a fault line on the ocean, just like Fukashima. Why build a nuclear power plan in the middle of a population center? They even cut through the containment dome for 14 months without public knowledge!

Those who invest their money in privately owned utilities like SCE take a risk, to maximize profits they will fight for years, but they should be held accountable for their mistakes, and not be allowed to pass them on to the public. They were given a gift of a public monopoly utility, and they turned it into a superfund site.

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