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Members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission grilled Southern California Edison representatives yesterday regarding their plan to restart one of two nuclear reactors at the long-idled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station at a Commission meeting held yesterday in Maryland.

A main line of questioning was focused around Edison’s plan to upgrade equipment to monitor vibration among tubes in the reactor’s steam generators. A failure of one of these tubes caused a small radiation leak and forced the plant into emergency shutdown last January, and subsequent inspection has uncovered a large number of other tubes with abnormal amounts of wear for the two years they had been in service.

Edison said the improved monitoring system would help plant operators detect whether any parts on the generators had broken loose, or whether a tube carrying radioactive water had broken open. Commission officials said this didn’t go far enough. Rather than a reactionary approach, the regulatory body seemed to be looking for safety measures that could detect problems before radiation could again potentially be released into the atmosphere surrounding the plant.

“The instrumentation that you're proposing . . . does not appear to be capable of detecting the conditions that would lead to actual tube wear,” said Commission representative Richard Stattel, as quoted by the Associated Press.

Edison said that rather than being presented as a safety upgrade at all, the sensors were included in the restart plan more as a tool for scientists to study the generators in what’s laid out as a five-month live experiment.

The meeting did not result in any change to the indication that March is the earliest likely date for a decision on the restart proposal.

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