Southern California heating up as public and utility head for face-off over repairs

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A report authored by Fairewinds Associates warns that a more detailed study is needed on the alloy tubing in the plant’s steam generators before the twin reactors at San Onofre are restarted, according to The Associated Press.   The utility that runs California’s San Onofre nuclear plant misled federal regulators about equipment and design changes that are the likely cause of extensive wear on tubing that carries radioactive water, a report commissioned by an environmental group claimed Tuesday.

A year ago, Southern California Edison announced the installation of four new steam generators at the San Onofre nuclear power plant, hailing it as a major boost to electricity production.  The four generators, manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, were installed in 2010 and 2011. Edison assured regulators and the public the upgrades would save ratepayers over one billion dollars in the next ten years, and that they would last until 2022, when San Onofre’s license expires, and possibly beyond that if the license is extended.

In a February filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Edison noted that although the steam generators are under a 20-year warranty, Mitsubishi is not liable for the replacement of the steam generators according to the purchase report. Arnie Gundersen, a former nuclear industry executive and chief engineer of the energy consulting company Fairewinds Associates, who is frequently critical of nuclear plant safety, estimated that the tube wear is 10 to 15 times the normal rate.

The San Onofre plant is known for it’s safety culture, a lack of proper seismic calculations was one of six “green” findings outlined by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in an Oct. 14 letter, in November the utility was heavily criticized by the public after information about an ammonia leak did not appear on SONGS’ site until two hours after the alert was declared, and workers near the leak began being evacuated.

An NRC report later faulted Edison for the failure by workers to recognize and repair the degraded equipment that were found to have caused the ammonia leak.

Instead, Edison has had to endure the longest outage in San Onofre’s history, and federal regulators say the plant should remain idle until they are confident no more tubes will leak or rupture.

The utility is struggling to cope with increasing costs for repairs, backup power for the plant, and replacement power for the consumers.   It remains unknown how much the outage and fixes will cost, and the utility has repeatedly said it’s too early to say whether ratepayers might be asked to cover the bill.

CPUC spokeswoman Terrie Prosper said the commission has not determined whether ratepayers could be asked to foot the bill for costs related to the outage.

“Ratepayers shouldn’t be responsible for Edison’s mistakes, and they shouldn’t be responsible for the mistakes of the vendors Edison contracts with,” said Matthew Freedman, staff counsel to The Utility Reform Network.

However, the other alternative that California will be pushed to elect, is to build a new plant.  Pressure is already coming from the industry, and the governor has already held meetings discussing the option.

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  1. Prediction!
    I believe that the CURRENT PROBE into San Onofre will expose many more questionable tubes and also an ongoing coverup of safety related info that was concealed in order to sidestep NRC notifications. San Onofre has the worst safety record of all US reactors and it just makes sense that the Operator will be trying very hard to keep the lid on anything that draw attention to their reactor or it’s operation.

    The NRC gave the Nuclear Industry a “PASS” on the tube wear issue before on San Onofre and many of the other reactors around the Country http://wp.­me/p21p6a-­77L BUT NOW
    They are realizing that they have a much bigger problem than they first “imagined”­; metal erosion/weakness cannot be tolerated when the radioactiv­e leakage is not only high in temperatur­e and pressure but also high in amount of radiation!

    Would you use a dangerous leaking pressure pot day after day,… or would you be smart and replace it with something safer?

    Fragile tubes and a EARTH QUAKE could makes a large number of those tubes all fail AT ONCE; which is what I think happened in Fukushima!

    1. @CaptD –

      The article says the industry wants to build a new nuclear plant in California!

      While we’re all busy spinning our wheels, they’re working quietly behind the scenes to get more nuclear power plants built.

      Does anyone know if Gov. Brown is pro-nuke or anti-nuke?

      Californians might need to write their reps and say no to a new nuclear power plant in California!

        1. The last paragraph of the article above:

          “…the other alternative that California will be pushed to elect, is to build a new plant. Pressure is already coming from the industry, and the governor has already held meetings discussing the option…”

          The industry is pushing and already met with the Governor.

          Maybe Lucas has a link to where that came from.

          1. Thanks, if you are correct this is now the kind of jobs CA needs!
            Sorry for the late reply

  2. BIG NEWS, (which I predicted):
    Edison kept San Onofre steam generator replacement details secret from NRC
    The study by Arnie Gundersen and Fairewinds Associates, and commissioned by nuclear watchdog Friends of the Earth, is the first public technical analysis since problems were discovered at the two now-closed reactors at San Onofre:
    Reactor Unit 2 was undergoing a regularly scheduled shutdown in January when severe damage was found in tubes in the steam generator system.Reactor Unit 3 was shut down by Edison on January 31 after radioactive water leaked from a damaged pipe in the steam generators.
    The steam generators at both reactors are only months old and were installed at a cost to ratepayers of some $671 million.
    In his analysis of available public information, Gundersen has concluded that “both units 2 and 3 have experienced extraordinarily rapid degradation of their steam generator tubes.” He has concluded that the “severe short-term steam generator degradation” could lead to a “large risk of tube failure” and result in “an uncontrolled release of radiation into the environment.”
    While the NRC has said that the “root cause of the tube leak has not yet been determined,” Gundersen concludes that four significant changes were made to the design of the new steam generators, all of which may be contributing to their dramatic degradation: the tube alloy used is different, the reactor flow rate was changed, more steam generator tubes were added, and key modifications were made to the “egg crate” architecture that holds the tubing in the steam generator. Yet when Edison notified the NRC that it would be replacing the steam generators, it argued that it was making a “like for like” replacement. By misleading the NRC on the true nature of the replacement, Edison fooled the NRC into giving a rubber stamp and not conducting a thorough NRC review and approval process.

    1. I predict that they’ve already written off San Onofre and that’s why they’re pushing to build a new nuclear power plant.

      Sounds like San Onofre is yesterday’s news.

      Today’s news is that they are working in the background to build a new nuclear power plant.

      We have to learn to stay ahead of the game, instead of always being 2 steps behind it.

      Focus attention to saying no to NEW nuclear in California!

      1. Good Thinking!
        I know many in CA are very concerned and the problems at San Onofre are actually helping get the message out that CA cannot afford a Trillion Dollar Eco-Disaster meltdown!

  3. Listen to interview #40 about @ 1/4-in for some interesting info on San Onofre.

    —-> Interview of Donna Gilmore of
    and is a grassroots effort to shut down shut down California’s nuclear power plants.

    Signatures of California registered voters needed by April 7th

    Petition is here:

    CPUC data shows there’s close to 150% surplus peak energy power thru 2020 in California without San Onofre or Diablo Canyon nuclear power plants.

    California doesn’t need nuclear power plants for energy.

    —-> Interview of Ace Hoffman of offers up-to-date info on the steam generator tubes @ San Onofre.

    1. What a Nuclear Waste!

      We are not alone in thinking that all or at least most of out Leaders are in nuclear denial* and or indebted to the BIG nuclear Utilities because of their BIG donations!

      *Nuclear Denial

      The illogical belief that Nature cannot destroy any land based nuclear reactor, any place anytime 24/7/365!

      Read more: San Clemente Times – Local News, Businesses, Classifieds, events, in the San Clemente, CA area.

  4. Posted by WeMustDoBetter
    An imperfect storm swept into Southern California on, perhaps appropriately enough, April Fools weekend creating the conditions that tested’s scientific hypothesis that radioactive “buckyballs” and other fission radionuclides from the triple Fukushima Japan meltdowns are already impacting the region. Sure enough, a rain composed primarily of sea mist formed over a choppy ocean with high winds tested higher than any other Los Angeles Basin rain since Radiation Station Santa Monica began fallout radiation tests March 15, 2011, four days after the unabated meltdowns began.

    1. A few weeks ago a sea mist blew from the Gulf of Mexico onto the west coast of Florida, and I had nosebleeds for a week!

      I instinctively wondered if there was something in the mist.

      It was unordinarily salty and sulfury smelling.

      Strange, huh?

      1. Yes, especially the sulfur smell…
        Did any of the Local MSM’s write anthing about it?
        Have any links to share?
        Thanks in advance?

      2. Yes, especially the sulfur smell…
        Did any of the Local MSM’s write anything about it?
        Have any links to share?
        Thanks in advance?

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