Fed Regulators Meet With San Onofre Nuclear Plant Operators

Tuesday Meeting In Dana Point Follow-up To Safety Concerns

Monday, December 13, 2010
By Ed Joyce / Capital Public Radio
Photo by Ed Joyce / KPBS
Above: Edison workers unpack one of two new reactor vessel heads at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, Monday, Dec. 13, 2010.

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station is undergoing some improvements for safety and to increase power output. The upgrades come as federal regulators meet with plant operators Tuesday in Dana Point.

The meeting follows a finding by federal regulators that some workers at the plant, operated by Southern California Edison, are afraid of bringing up safety issues.

One of the Edison officials meeting with the Commission is Chief Nuclear Officer Pete Dietrich.

"I think a lot of it is just about open communication," said Dietrich.

Dietrich became the plant's chief nuclear officer less than a week ago.

"We have a large number of people performing a lot of work in a short period of time," said Dietrich. "And we constantly emphasize safety. We constantly emphasize industrial safety, radiological safety, nuclear safety. I encourage and want a healthy discussion. I ask workers and supervisors and members of the team that's working at San Onofre to bring up your concerns and issues to us."

Dietrich said he will tell the Nuclear Regulatory Commission what the plant has done to make operations safer.

"San Onofre has had several issues of very open discussion both with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and with the public," said Dietrich. "So tonight's (Tuesday) going to be an opportunity for us to update the NRC and the public on our progress."

The meeting is 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Trestles Room of the Doubletree Guest Suites, 34402 Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point.

The public is invited to ask questions of Southern California Edison and NRC officials.

Meanwhile, workers at the San Onofre plant were busy Monday unpacking two new 85-ton steel reactor vessel heads.

The new heads will be installed in 2012. Officials say they're safer and more efficient then the plant's original heads being replaced.

Steve Lelewer is in charge of the reactor vessel head replacement project.

"People around here depend on San Onofre to continue to produce electricity," said Lelewer. "And these heads will allow us to continue to produce well into this century."

Edison also plans to retrofit the plant's high-pressure turbines with new components in 2012.

Southern California Edison said the nuclear plant provides enough power at a given point in time to serve 1.5 million Southern California homes.