The shuttered and controversial San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station was a “notable” contributor to a raft of shutdowns that shook the industry this spring and pushed electricity production in the nation way down, a federal agency said Wednesday.
But even as data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency shows power plant outages in other regions coming back to normal rates, Southern California Edison, which owns the San Onofre plant, backed away from prior statements that the facility’s two reactors could come back on line by next month.
“They’re both safely shutdown, offline,” spokesman Scott Andresen told NBC LA on Wednesday. “We won’t restart either one until we or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission deems it safe to do so.”
The two reactors at San Onofre have been shut since January, when damage was discovered in several steam tubes. The company said this week that about 1300 tubes have been taken out of service since then, at a cost of about $30 million.
Last week, a company official said that the reactors might be able to be placed back into service as early as next month – one on June 1 and the other on June 12. But regulators said they had not been notified of such plans, and Edison quickly distanced itself from the statement.
Andresen said Wednesday that the two dates “were for planning purposes only.”
At the federal level, officials said Wednesday that outages at nuclear power plants hit a multi-year high last month, losing 27 gigawatts of power on April 16.
Nationwide, the outages have now returned to normal, the agency said, but outages at four major plants, including San Onofre, are ongoing. Shut-downs continue to affect a portion of the Diablo Canyon plant operated by Pacific Gas and Electric near Avila Beach, Progress Energy’s Florida’s Crystal River plant and Omaha Public Power District’s Ft. Calhoun, the agency said.
Ace Hoffman, a Carlsbad activist who wants the San Onofre plant to remain closed for good, said the utility’s move away from a June re-opening is further evidence that it will be very difficult to repair the reactors and operate them safely. Edison’s admission Tuesday that it had plugged 510 steam tubes in one reactor and 807 in the other – more than had been anticipated – also showed that it would be dangerous to start up the plant again, Hoffman said.
“They’re not going to be able to fix it and we’ve known this since January,” Hoffman said. “This is a useless, hopeless problem. And they don’t want to admit it.”