The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station is seen from the beach along San Onofre State Beach on March 15, 2012 south of San Clemente, California. Three steam generator tubes in Unit 3 of the nuclear reaction facility failed pressure stress tests by Southern California Edison (SCE), prompting the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to begin assembling a team of nuclear energy inspection experts who will try to determine why the level of wear on the tubes is unusually high. The unit has been shut down since the detection of a leak in one of the steam generator tubes on January 31. Unit 2 is also off line, for routine inspections, and Unit 1 has been decommissioned.
Officials at the nuclear regulatory commission say they will not take Southern California Edison's plan to re-start the troubled San Onofre nuclear power plant "at face value" in a key meeting in Maryland on Tuesday.
At the meeting, which will be webcast live at 10 a.m. Pacific Time, commission staff plan to ask a number of mostly technical questions aimed at figuring out whether the company's plan to re-open the plant is sound, a spokesman said.
"The questions concern the adequacy of the steps that Edison is taking to ensure that the plant can be operated safely," said NRC spokesman Victor Dricks.
The plant has been closed since early this year, after problems in the steam generators in two of its reactors.
Last month, Southern California Edison submitted a lengthy proposal asking permission to re-open the plant, but officials say it will be months before a decision is made.
"They have proposed operating the plant at reduced power for five months," Dricks said, "and the staff needs to do a technical evaluation to determining if in fact Edison has demonstrated that they can do that."
Among the issues that the giant utility promised to address as the meeting began: how it will keep steam tubes from vibrating during use, causing the sort of excessive wear that prompted the shutdown in the first place.
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