San Onofre Nuclear Plant Offline Indefinitely

An official visit comes as inspectors investigate unusual wear on steam generator tubes

By Jonathan Lloyd and Patrick Healy
|  Friday, Apr 6, 2012  |  Updated 8:12 PM PDT
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"They have to demonstrate to us that they understand the causes and ultimately they have a plan to address those causes that will ensure public health and safety," says Nuclear Regulator Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko. Jaczko toured the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and says the plant will stay offline indefinitely. Patrick Healy reports.

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Nuclear Inspectors Investigate Faulty Tubes at San Onofre Plant

A federal inspection team is beginning its examination of steam generator tubes at the San Onofre nuclear power plant. One of those tubes leaked in January, prompting a reactor shutdown, and more tubes failed during a series of tests last week. Antonio Castelan reports.

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An environmental group said it "defies logic" to restart the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant without more detailed study into its operational health. The group's study accuses the utility that operates the plant of misleading regulators about the cause of a tube leak at the plant. Vikki Vargas reports.
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The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, which generates enough electricity to power 1.4 million homes, will stay offline indefinitely until inspectors decipher and correct unusual wear in the steam generator tubes, according to the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, who toured the plant Friday.

The problem was discovered Jan. 31, leading to an immediate shutdown of that unit at the plant located about 70 miles south of Los Angeles.

"They have to demonstrate to us that they understand the causes and ultimately they have a plan to address those causes that will ensure public health and safety," said Chairman Gregory Jaczko.

Jaczko toured the plant with Democratic Sen. Dianne  Feinstein and Republican Rep. Darrell Issa. The tour included a first-hand look at the facility's sea wall.

An advocacy group conducted a protest on a bluff just north of the plant. The group callled for a closure of the plant. One of the demonstrators held a sign that read, "No Fukushima Here," a reference to the site of last year's meltdown that followed a tsunami.

"We demand that the NRC not allow this plant to open until there's been some testing done to make sure that those tubes will be safe when they're turned on," said one demonstrator.

The plant operates two units, and each unit has thousands of the steam generator tubes. They act as barriers between the radioactive and non-radioactive sides of the plant, which will remain offline until inspectors determine what's behind the erosion.

Unit 3 was taken offline in January because of excessive wear in the tubes. Unit 2 was taken offline for planned maintenance Jan. 9 and remains offline.

Unit 1 has not been in operation since the early 1990s.

San Onofre generations about 2,200 megawatts of electricity, 10 percent of SoCal Edison's service area.

Since January, the Edison system has been able to get by without San Onofre's power by repowering AES generating stations in Huntington Beach and Long Beach.

But with summer on the way, the utility is looking at other ways to supplement the loss, including conservation methods, effeciency methods and bringing up additional transition lines.

Regulators outlined in a letter the steps that must be taken before the reactors can go back online.

Officials have said there is no danger to workers or plant neighbors.

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