Orange County News

San Onofre nuclear plant shutdown: Problem found?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Officials believe they know what caused problems that forced the shutdown of the San Onofre nuclear plant.

The San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station has been shut down since January when it released trace amounts of radiation.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission met Monday night about the issue. The NRC says the problem appears to be in the design of the generators. The generators were found to be heavily modified.

"Eight tubes did not have structural integrity. We've never seen that before in the industry. No more than one had ever happened. I think the extent of the tube to tube interaction we saw also has not been seen in the industry, so this is a significant and serious safety issue," said NRC regional administrator Elmo Collins.

Opponents are outraged. The environmental group Friends of the Earth filed a legal petition with the NRC in hopes of keeping the plant closed until it undergoes a public hearing on problems and possible solutions.

Friends of the Earth says Southern California Edison, which operates the plant, misled the public about changes made to the generators in 2006, and say the generators are not safe.

"It's insane for anyone in California to have to live with this risk -- for nothing," said Donna Gilmore, a Friends of the Earth spokesperson. "The only advantage of that plant is it makes millions for Edison every day it's running."

SCE says the company has complied with all rules and regulations. It said it's in no rush to restart.

"We are always putting safety as our top priority in how we design and in the specifications that we made when we were creating these new steam generators," said Jennifer Manfre, Southern California Edison spokesperson. "That was really about being safe. We're here to discover what went wrong, and what that process is to make it absolutely safe."

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