One year after a radiation leak prompted the shutdown of California’s San Onofre nuclear power plant, the plant’s owner Southern California Edison insists the facility can re-open safely.
Southern California Edison (SCE), which owns the majority of the plant along with San Diego Gas & Electric and the city of Riverside, said its plan to re-open the facility is conservative – and safe.
“Safety remains SCE’s top priority,” the utility said. Its plan to restart one of the two reactors “will get San Onofre Unit 2 back to providing reliable and clean energy to Southern Californians.”
While SCE is looking to restart, there are activists that say hold on for one minute. They want to shut down the facility permanently.
Under SCE’s plan, the utility would not operate the reactor at 100 percent. Instead, it would only run at 70 percent of capacity. In addition, the company promised to close the plant for inspection within 150 days of starting it up again.
But activists in the communities around the plant oppose Edison’s plan to re-open the San Onofre, saying that it would not be safe.
“One year ago, a radiation leak nearly became a major nuclear disaster,” activist Donna Gilmore wrote on a website dedicated to opposing the plant.
A public hearing on Edison’s proposal for the facility by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will take place Feb. 12 in Capistrano Beach.
The plant’s Unit 2 reactor was offline for routine inspections and maintenance when a steam generator tube in Unit 3 sprung a leak Jan. 31 one year ago. That leak released a small amount of radioactive steam. That led to the discovery the tubes in the newly replaced steam generators were wearing out more quickly than expected, including some that showed an unusual type of wear caused by tubes rubbing against adjacent tubes.
The NRC sent a special inspection team to the plant and ordered SCE to keep the plant down until the company could show that it fully understood the cause of the issues and how to fix them.
SCE’s plan is to restart Unit 2 and run it at 70 percent power for five months before taking it offline for inspections to make sure the tube wear is not continuing. Unit 3, which had a more serious issue, would remain offline indefinitely.
Edison wrote the unusual wear was a result of “fluid elastic instability” — high-velocity steam flow and low moisture in certain areas that caused the tubes to vibrate excessively and rub against each other. Running the plant at reduced power would reduce the steam velocity to an acceptable level, the company said.