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Solana Beach Looks At Issuing Letter Of Concern Over San Onofre

Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear energy consultant, talks to KPBS about the San Onofre Nuclear Generating System.

We're sorry. This audio clip is no longer available. A transcript has been made available.

The San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant has been out of commission since January and there is a movement to keep it closed or phase it out completely.

Earlier this week, the city of Irvine in Orange County voted to send a letter to federal regulators opposing the relicensing of the plant. Solana Beach officials are urged to follow Irvine’s lead and vote to oppose relicensing San Onofre.

A rally by anti-nuclear activists is planned this weekend at the plant.

Nuclear energy consultant Arnie Gundersen spoke on KPBS Midday Edition and said relicensing could take as long as 10 years. The ultimate decision about whether to keep the plant comes from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“I think this is the first step by public officials to put the NRC on notice that they’re very concerned about San Onofre moving forward after 2023,” Gundersen said.

He wrote two reports for the environmental group Friends of the Earth that traced back the problems in the steam generator at the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant to vibrations that were caused by modifications made by Southern California Edison.

“We’re not going to know what the problem is in those steam generators until the summer,” Gundersen said. “Mitsubishi, the people that made this, said they are not going to have their analysis done until September.”

He said the units won’t be ready to restart until the root of the problem is identified.

“We need to be prepared this summer for new ways of generating electricity and some load management by the people in Orange County,” Gundersen said.

Veronica Gutierrez, vice president of local public affairs at Southern California Edison, said on Midday Edition that they do not know whether the plant will reopen this summer.

“It will still be awhile until we know enough to know whether or not it will be operating in the summer,” she said. “We are taking a significant number of steps to prepare for a summer without one or possibly both units.”

Given the state of the system, Gutierrez said every summer Southern California Edison does contingency planning, like transmission upgrades by June for San Onofre, possible plans for the AES Huntington Beach power plant to bring two of its units back into service and conservation efforts.

“We have so many people already conserving that we are trying to cash in that last set of customers who might not be able to conserve a lot, but might be able to conserve a little to make a difference,” she said.

Gutierrez said she doesn’t know when the repairs to the San Onofre steam generators will take place, but said once they receive verifiable information that has gone through the nuclear industry standards, they will be providing the information.

Gundersen said Southern California Edison has the decision whether to repair or replace the steam generators and may encounter legal issues with Mitsubishi to see who will ultimately pay. He said ratepayers should not have to pay for a new generator.


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