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San Onofre restart plan hits a snag

The plan to resume power generating activities at the long-idled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station hit a snag yesterday, as Nuclear Regulatory Commission staffers indicated that plant operator Southern California Edison’s proposal to operate a single reactor under partial load may require more review than originally anticipated.

In a letter to Edison, the Commission noted that operating rules require the plant to ensure the “structural integrity” of the reactor’s steam generator tubes, more than 1,300 of which were found to be damaged between San Onofre’s two reactors, through “the full range of normal operating conditions.”

Edison had hoped to run the reactor at 70 percent capacity in an attempt to reduce or eliminate further damage to the weakened generators, but the rules indicate that even in such a scenario the utility would have to demonstrate the ability of the generators to function safely if they did come under full load.

When an Edison lawyer was being questioned by a Commission panel at a meeting earlier this month, he declined to assure panel members that the generators were safe to run at maximum capacity. Nonetheless, Edison says it will provide further information to the Commission as requested and re-emphasized its focus on safety at the facility.

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The plan to resume power generating activities at the long-idled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station hit a snag yesterday, as Nuclear Regulatory Commission staffers indicated that plant operator Southern California Edison’s proposal to operate a single reactor under partial load may require more review than originally anticipated.

In a letter to Edison, the Commission noted that operating rules require the plant to ensure the “structural integrity” of the reactor’s steam generator tubes, more than 1,300 of which were found to be damaged between San Onofre’s two reactors, through “the full range of normal operating conditions.”

Edison had hoped to run the reactor at 70 percent capacity in an attempt to reduce or eliminate further damage to the weakened generators, but the rules indicate that even in such a scenario the utility would have to demonstrate the ability of the generators to function safely if they did come under full load.

When an Edison lawyer was being questioned by a Commission panel at a meeting earlier this month, he declined to assure panel members that the generators were safe to run at maximum capacity. Nonetheless, Edison says it will provide further information to the Commission as requested and re-emphasized its focus on safety at the facility.

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Before they get the opportunity to start up that unit, there will be more "snags." Edison's claims about having a focus on safety ring hollow. That plant was one of the worst over the years for being in non-compliance with safety directives and for failing to stay current with tests and reviews. If SCE ever is permitted to restart it will be close to a miracle.

Dec. 27, 2012
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