Senator Boxer calls for Justice Department to conduct probe of San Onofre problems

Southern California Edison installed replacement steam generators (RSG) at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), located a mere 62 miles southeast of Los Angeles, both of which were fabricated by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) in Japan at a $670 million price tag.

Southern California Edison installed replacement steam generators (RSG) at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), located a mere 62 miles southeast of Los Angeles, both of which were fabricated by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) in Japan at a $670 million price tag.

Senator Barbara Boxer has expressed her desire for the Justice Department to investigate executives at Southern California Edison, the utility which operates the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant, to determine whether or not they deceived federal regulators during the steam generator replacement process.  Boxer received a internal letter written by a senior executive at the utility to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in 2004 which lead her to believe that Edison intentionally mislead the public and regulators in order to avoid a more costly review process.

The letter, dated November 30th, 2004, from SCE Vice President Dwight E. Nunn stated, “although the old and new steam generators will be similar in many respects they aren’t like-for-like replacements.”  Nunn also acknowledged in the letter that designing supports for the tubes would be tricky since larger generators appear more susceptible to tube wear, and added that he was “concerned that there is the potential that design flaws could be inadvertently introduced into the steam generator design that will lead to unacceptable consequences,” including tube damage.  “This would be a disastrous outcome for both of us,” he is quoted.

Boxer said the letter shows “Edison knew they were not proceeding with a simple ‘like-for-like’ replacement as they later claimed.”

Source: AP

 

3 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. ros0952@intergate.com'

    It’s absolutely ludicrous to claim the new generators were ‘like for like’. One might also think about asking the NRC for its review of the process of acceptance. They really dropped the ball.

    Different materials, different tube support support structures, different flow characteristics, increased capacity for a given area…

    I’ve built heat exchangers. I once built an exchanger (a small one, thankfully) for which which we didn’t have the proper radius called out in the drawings for the tube bends. We had dies that were basically just a half-inch larger than the call-out. If one examined the internals in a side-by-side comparison, it would take a very discerning eye to tell the difference between the size used and that of the call-out. The use of the tool we did use was made at the production manager’s level. Hell, who would notice? Built, hydrostatically tested, it was all good…

    Well, the engineers certainly did notice at use, and without inspecting the internals by sight. That exchanger walked back in the door a week and a half later, and I got reamed by the owner for not spending the money on the proper die (and told the production manager that he owed me one for sure). We had to then buy the die, make the internals over.

    While this steam generator may not have such tight parameters as the one I mentioned, and plugging damaged tubes is a common ocurrance, even in some new, very large fabrications, when one isn’t an engineer, or like Hitachi, admittedly assuming that some of the engineering models didn’t need to be run, one ought to stay out of the process, or at least require proper engineering dilligence. There are levels at which decisions are properly made. Hitachi, Edison, and also the NRC seem to not have recognized that level or ignored the proper level.

    Often one has a difficult time appreciating the level of sophistication that brings about common items. While learning about heat exchangers, I bought a book on the interpretation of ASME codes regarding these things. The first page of the book had a picture of a shoe factory in St. Louis in the early 1900s. I wondered what that was all about, then I turned the page and was given the same view, except the building was rubble. The boiler had failed, and pretty much took the city block with it. The intent of the pictures was to impress one with the importance of proper manufacture practices and the experiences that led to the institution of the codes. These steam generators may be somewhat different concerning their ability to literally explode, but they are the same basic idea and somewhat the design, and required the same practices of engineering and manufacture. No one here did that.

  2. ros0952@intergate.com'

    http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=ccfadddd-50a3-4947-8a49-45e54e9dd2a4

    Letter from David E. Nunn, Vice President of Southern California Edison to Mr. Akira Sawa, General Manager of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries dated November 30, 2004.

    The support bars were recognized as a potential problem that has some cited experience for evidence. Second page, second paragraph states: “Consequently, the design of the new steam generators is currently proceeding using the existing steam generator seismic response based on a like-for-like replacement concept (although the old and new steam generators will be similar in many respects they aren’t like-for-like replacements.)”

    So I would personally ask the NRC, “What in hell is your problem?”

    It’s one thing to gamble on an experimental design. In some respects, that’s a given if one is to move forward, and they weren’t party (I don’t believe) to this letter originally at decision, but, again, it was apparent these weren’t like-for-like to even a less than casual observer.

    Sorry for beating this, but it’s something that, as technology surges ahead, is prevelent in more situations and endeavors that we in our awed and mesmerized state are handling well. This is something fairly innocuous (I don’t have any belief that these would catastrophically fail as some suppose. At best I believe it could have been a cascading failure which proper oversight and observation could be mitigated rather quickly. Proof of what I believe is in the fact that they are shut down.) but those that do this oversight seem woefully short of trust in their ability to provide that oversight.

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