Dave Rice 1:03 p.m., June 19
Despite a recent finding that radiation detectors had been offline for months at the time of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown without officials noticing, and the manufacturer of malfunctioning steam generators reporting it won’t conclude its analysis of the units until August, Southern California Edison is moving forward with a plan to restart operations at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station as early as next month.
Edison wants to operate the units at a level below peak generating capacity, believing that the lower power output would reduce vibrations that are suspected as the root cause of wear to tubes that carry radioactive steam, many of which show signs of premature wear that have caused some to fail following a $670 million overhaul of the plant in 2009.
“We have honed in on the cause of the tube wear and believe that we have a proposal,” said Stephen Pickett, an executive vice president with Edison, in an interview published in U-T San Diego. The company intends to present its plan to resume operations to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by mid-May, with power generating activity to begin as early as June 1.
A Los Angeles Times post reports that a recent quarterly earnings statement from Edison shows the company expects to incur $55-65 million in costs related to inspection and repair of the damaged systems, which they hope to recover from manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries under a warranty. The utility has also spent at least $30 million so far in securing power from other sources to replace San Onofre’s generating capacity, a cost which continues to climb as the plant remains offline and is not covered under Mitsubishi’s equipment warranty.
Nuclear power critics are already moving to condemn Edison’s accelerated time line for resuming operation.
“It's pretty clear on the political side that this is Edison's attempt to strongarm the NRC into giving rapid approval,” said nuclear consultant Shaun Burnie, with the environmental group Friends of the Earth. His group has issued reports alleging that the designers of the failed generators intentionally sidestepped Nuclear Regulatory Commission review, and doesn’t believe operating under partial power is an acceptable solution to the premature wear and failure problem.